Lotz: A Poetic Commentary on John’s Gospel

 

Anne Graham Lotz, Just Give Me JesusLotz: A Poetic Commentary on John’s Gospel

Anne Graham Lotz. 2000. Just Give Me Jesus. Nashville: Word Publishing.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Some stories bear repeating. One story that I have repeated over the years concerned a dinner party where Ruth Graham learned that an older gentleman sitting next to her was the former head of Scotland Yard, the British equivalent of the FBI. Because part of his responsibilities included dealing with counterfeit money, she remarked that he must have spent a lot of time examining counterfeit bills.

“On the contrary, Mrs. Graham, I spent all of my time studying the genuine thing. That way, when I saw a counterfeit, I would immediately detect it.” (3)

The punch line here is that the best apologetic for the Gospel is Jesus himself.  After repeating this story over and over, I felt guilty and decided to buy the book where it appears, Anne Graham Lotz’  Just Give Me Jesus.

Anne Graham Lotz

Anne Graham Lotz is an author, evangelist, and the founder of AnGel Ministries in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is also the daughter of Ruth and Billy Graham. According to her website, “The New York Times named Anne one of the five most influential evangelists of her generation.”[1]

Interestingly, in spite of her obvious talents and family notoriety, Ms Lotz writes with reference to 1 Timothy 2:11-12:[2]

“I believe He [God] has forbidden me to teach or preach from a position of authority over a man…So when I speak, I speak as a woman who is not in authority. Instead, I am a woman who is under authority.” (311)

The term, “under authority”, is a quote from the faithful Centurion, whose slave Jesus healed.[3] This same humility led the Apostle Paul to describe himself numerous times (like Moses[4]) as a slave (δοῦλος) of Christ (e.g. Romans 1:1).[5] Placing herself under authority of Christ means that Ms. Lotz has clearly read her Bible and is above other things an evangelist. Why do I say this? Because her first priority is the Gospel, which she wants to be heard by both women and men. If she ignored or abrogated 1 Tim 2:11-12, as many do today, some men could not hear her words, distracting them from her evangelism.

Commentary on John’s Gospel

In reading Lotz’ book, Just Give Me Jesus, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it is a commentary on the Gospel of John. Lotz’ poetic style steps aside many of the scholarly interests of academic commentators, but she does not tell us directly why she chose John’s Gospel. Instead, she writes:

“While John’s motivation for writing his eyewitness account of the life of Jesus was his overwhelming, passionate love for Christ, his purpose in writing was his love for you.  The desire of his heart was, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (ix)

If one takes on the mind of Christ as an evangelist, then one must take the words of Jesus seriously when he says: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt 5:6 ESV) and the salvation of sinners. John’s passion is contagious.

Poetic Style

Lotz’ own poetic style is striking and pervasively utilized throughout the book. For example, in discussing the Jesus’ conversation with the paralytic in John 5:6, she turns to the reader and asks:

“Do you want to get well? Do you truly want that sin to be cleansed?

                                                             that guilt to be removed?

                                                      that habit to be broken?

                                         that anger to be dissolved?

                                that bitterness to be uprooted?

                     that emptiness to be filled?

            that joy to be reconciled?

     that relationship to be restored?

that strength to pick up your responsibilities and start walking by faith? (122)

While some might take Lotz’ poetry to be simply a stylistic device, it serves an important hermeneutical purpose. Lotz’ poetic style serves her well in both offering a “biblical theological” exegesis and “speaking to everyone in the room.” Following Calvin, biblical theology strives to exegete (a scholarly term meaning to explain) a biblical passage taking into account the entire counsel of scripture, starting with the author’s intent.  Scripture should explain Scripture; if the author’s intent is unclear, then perhaps another passage of the Bible is clearer. By contrast, “speaking to everyone in the room” is a popular preaching style that strives to understand the perspective of different classes of people or, hermeneutically, how different readers might interpret a particular scripture passage. Lotz’ poetic style allows her a sophisticated exegesis that permits her to explore the three most important hermeneutical perspectives:  author’s intent, the canon of scripture, and the reader.

Assessment

A lot more could be said about Lotz’ poetry. It is neither a mere style nor a strictly feminine approach. If one slows down and examines it carefully, it communicates a clear, deep, and diverse perspective. The potential for Lotz to live up to the New York Times claim (cited above) about her influence is clearly present.

In general, the voluminous nature of a commentary makes it hard to review adequately. Let me just say that Anne Graham Lotz’ Just Give Me Jesus is a delightful book to read and ponder. Already this week as I finished the book I have found myself repeating other stories (in addition to the Ruth Graham story above) that she has told. I suspect that you will too.

[1] http://www.annegrahamlotz.org.

[2] “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” (1 Tim 2:11-12 ESV)

[3] “But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”  When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” (Matt 8:8-10 ESV)

[4]יְהוָ֑ה עֶ֣בֶד (Jos 1:1 WTT). The Hebrew reads: slave of God (YHWH).

[5] In case anyone wonders why I take notice, my own business card reads: Slave of Christ, Husband, Father, Tentmaker, Author, Speaker.

 

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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