A promise unfulfilled

The Making of the Lamb
Robert Harley Bear
release date: April 2014

The plot line of Robert Harley Bear’s novel The Making of the Lamb was juicy and full of promise: that  Jesus of Nazareth traveled to the British Isles during the eighteen years that are “lost”–or at least not mentioned in Scripture. I’m familiar with the lost years tale of Christ in India, but this I’d never heard this legend. William Blake even asks “And did those feet in ancient time/Walk upon Englands mountains green” in a poem, now the lyrics of the hymn “Jerusalem”. How rich a story this could be, I thought, expecting something along the lines of The Red Tent or The Robe. Something that would give me a glimpse of the man Jesus in a way I hadn’t seen him before. Something revealing.

Bear begins the novel with the twelve-year-old Jesus, dressed in rough clothing, teaching in the temple. Even as a boy, in Bear’s take, the high priests were suspicious of his arguments and understanding of Scripture and feared revolution. Knowing he was being watched, Mary implores her uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, to spirit Jesus out of the country on one of his trips. Uncle Joseph was a wealthy tin trader and his son Daniel, Jesus’ cousin, sometimes accompanied him. And so with Romans chasing them, uncle, son, and nephew manage a too-close-for-comfort escape.

And finally land in England. But not before Bear introduces a present-day boy who becomes curious about a tunic he comes across in an old church  while traveling with his family. And along the way we visit 73 AD when the cross was first carved. Then Jesus, again, who is learning swordsmanship from a young Celt and studying with the druids and rescuing a slave who is really a captured Roman and sometimes conversing with God his Father … you get the picture. Maybe Jesus’ story would have been quite enough. But unfortunately, Bear had most of the characters speak in contemporary vernacular and the dialogue fell flat. This is Jesus, speaking to Mary, “Oh, Mother! What a wonderful way you have of putting things. You have brought that memory close to my heart, and I can relive it now forever.” Ouch.

There are a few glimpses of this Jesus that I found thought-provoking. As a boy, he knew God was his Father, but little else of his mission, other than it would someday be revealed. He had some incredible gifts–being able to speak a language fluently after only hearing a snippet of conversation–but didn’t perform miracles. He did, sometimes, see images or dream dreams that were intuitive and often got out of some tense situations by sharing what he saw. I was intrigued by Jesus’ curiosity about the druids, although, again, the dialogue got in my way.

Such great possibilities … but short on delivering anything divine.

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