Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana by Anne Rice

I am not sure whether Anne Rice’s books on the life of Christ are considered heretical or unorthodox . . . since they are from the point of view of Jesus, I am sure that some people find that offensive. I liked what she did with Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, though. It made for a good discussion in my book club, and I liked the (obviously deeply researched) information she put in on the political climate of the time. When the second in the trilogy came out, I was definitely interested to give it a try. And, though I liked Out of Egypt, I loved The Road to Cana.

Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana is about Jesus’ life just before his ministry begins, as he works as a carpenter in Nazareth. The premise of the series overall is that, as Jesus grew as a man, his understanding of his ministry grew as well. When we discussed the first one in my book club, that concept caused some people some problems, because many of them felt that Jesus fully understood what he was doing all along. I don’t think Anne Rice is trying to discount the divinity of Christ in any way . . . I think that this is her way of acknowledging that the question of Christ’s divinity and his humanity is a great mystery. And this is how it might have played out.

I have never read any of Anne Rice’s vampire books, so I don’t know much about her writing, but I thought that passages in this book were beautiful. In my favorite passage, one of the characters asked Jesus why, when he was 12, he didn’t stay at the Temple, why he has been simply swallowed up by the world instead of studying Torah and making a difference. Here is part of his response:

“It’s where I live, my lord,” I said. “Not in the Temple, but in the world. And in the world, I learn what the world is and what the world will teach, and I am of the world. The world’s made of wood and stone and iron, and I work in it. No, not in the Temple. In the world. And I study Torah; and I pray with the assembly; and on the feasts I go to Jerusalem to stand before the Lord–in the Temple–but this is in the world, all this. In the world. And when it is time for me to do what the Lord has sent me to do in this world, this world which belongs to Him, this world of wood and stone and iron and grass and air, He will reveal it to me. And what this carpenter shall yet build in this world on that day, the Lord knows, and the Lord shall reveal it.”

I cried when I read that, because, whether that’s how it really was for Jesus, I think that’s what God requires of us. Not to hole up in our churches and our seminaries, but to live and work in the world and to make a difference there, to use our gifts to do what he asks of us, to take the next step as he reveals it.

I will agree with those who said that the book was better when Rice was filling in the areas where we don’t have a lot of information: What was it like for Jesus to live in Nazareth as a carpenter before his baptism? What did his family think of how he spent his time? But the baptism and his time in the desert also had some beautiful passages, even if the tone was a little bit more stilted than some of the other sections. And it all came together in the end, as Jesus changed water into wine at a wedding that had special significance for him, setting into motion a series of events that would end, not with an army of devoted followers, but, as we celebrated on Sunday, with him riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, facing his own death. I look forward to the third book, to see how Anne Rice interprets the rest of Jesus’ ministry and his crucifixion. It was nice to reflect on the ministry of Jesus just before Easter, especially with a book as powerful as this one.

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