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Summary

Best-selling author R. William Bennett imagines how a contemporary of Jesus, Simon, an ordinary spice merchant and a Jew without deeply felt religious beliefs, begins his lifelong journey as one of the first new Christians as his life intersects with Jesus at the major milestones of his life and ministry. 

From the very beginning, Simon is on the scene on the eve of Jesus’s birth. He is the last man to get an available room at the inn in Bethlehem, forcing Joseph and Mary to be turned away upon their arrival. Later that night, unable to sleep, Simon stumbles upon a group huddled around a cave, solemnly watching the miracle of a newborn babe in a stone manger and immediately recognizes the couple from the inn. Gazing upon the scene, he feels something of spiritual significance: peaceful, holy, sacred. The next day, he hears rumors in the marketplace of a holy birth which is the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy: the promised Messiah of the Jewish people. Simon wonders if that was what he witnessed. 

As listeners, we walk with Simon as he witnesses Jesus’s revolutionary teachings like the Sermon on the Mount. Simon also hears testimonies of Jesus’s miracles, and watches his own eldest son embrace the new covenant after witnessing John baptize Jesus, an act which signals the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, which paves the way for a new people of God. 

Simon feels blessed to have his family, but he doesn’t understand why others are searching for deeper faith and connection to God. Still questioning and unsure, he spends his life determined to find out if Jesus truly is the son of God, the promised Messiah. Eventually, Simon travels to Jerusalem as the popularity of Jesus’s ministry catches the attention of those in power.

By the time he arrives in Jerusalem, he discovers that Jesus has been tried and convicted of treason in a Roman court and is sentenced to death by crucifixion. After a life of following Jesus from a distance, Simon is now walking the streets of Jerusalem with him. At a critical moment, Simon steps out from the crowd to help Jesus ease the burden of carrying the cross, symbolically pledging himself to ease the burden of humankind by spreading the word of Jesus as a new true Christian believer.

In the aftermath of Jesus’s death, Simon’s family thinks that the new ministry is now over. But it’s a true test of faith believing in the certainty of what is unseen, and in a week’s time, Jesus’s followers encounter him risen from the dead. In this moment of Jesus’s resurrection, Simon is ready. His faith, built steadily on the bedrock of Jesus’s teachings, love of God, and love of one’s neighbor moves him to dedicate himself to a new mission, declaring we have work to do.

©2019 Burgess Adams, Inc. (P)2019 Blackstone Publishing

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Profile Image for James Bailey
  • James Bailey
  • 09-10-19

Relatable, complex faith struggle. GREAT Narrator!

I. LOVED. this. audiobook.

So many stories of faith journeys over-simplify the impacts that finding and demonstrating faith can have on a person's life, including in one's private and family life as well as in one's public life and career. But, this book told of a more relatable, complex faith journey and had me wrapped up in the highs, lows, the struggles, doubts, pains, joys, epiphanies, and the loss and subsequent growth of loving relationships that Simon experienced.

It was incredible simply as a novel, but also as a guide for me and an expression of my own journey to take simple principles of faith and explore and live them in a crazy, complicated world.

This was one of those books that conjures up so many vivid images in my mind. I want a painting, a shekel, or some emblem to look at or keep with me for the really challenging days that put my faith to the test.

One final note - I loved that this was told primarily as a distant observer of the life of Christ. Most Christian records and narratives, including the Four Gospels of the New Testament, are told from the perspective of those who directly witnessed Jesus and his life and ministry. But, this book was told in 1st-person from a man who was hearing 2nd- and 3rd-hand accounts, which made it a really moving and relatable story because I felt like Simon's experience with Christ really wasn't much more direct than mine, so his faith challenges and growth are much more like my own.

So... in case it's not clear... I *loved* it. It's great for those with strong faith, those who are struggling, and those who are just interested in considering the possibilities of the truth of Christianity. To be honest, an atheist might even find themselves in some element in the story.

Anyway, thanks R. William Bennett! And, @Dennis Kleinman, amazing job on the narration!

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  • K. T. Myers
  • 13-12-19

Beautiful tale

I chose this book after my second listen to “Jacob T. Marley.” I just LOVE how the author takes an obscure character from a story and brings their life to life. I just love how he weaves the story into something more... I really loved it.


4 people found this helpful

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  • Christianne
  • 27-10-19

Phenomenal, engaging story

Once I began this book, I spent every spare minute listening. It combines the sincerity of the scriptures with engaging historical fiction. Amazing book!

2 people found this helpful

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  • jacquie jones
  • 31-12-20

So much insight into human nature.

So much insight into human nature. I love that it developed naturally, not pushing boundaries of life unfolding. There was nothing in it that I couldn't wrap my head, arms and heart around. The distinction of characters were intricate and full. I could Invision the scenes in Bethlehem, Jerusalem and adjacent areas as if I were there with the sights, sounds and feelings these people experienced. Heartbreaking at times, knowing what was coming and yet beautiful to the end as the father takes his place as patriarch not only physically but spiritually.

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  • Erika Kirchgatterer
  • 31-08-21

Captivating story!

Great reader and captivating story! Totally relatable with all men’s struggles to know and believe.

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  • Donna
  • 18-08-21

Immensely inspiring. Excellent narration.

One of the most inspiring books of Christian fiction I have read. The narration was so good it only added to the emotion invoked by the captivating story. I wish all audiences would read it.

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  • Dr D.
  • 29-06-21

Excellent story

I loved the story and the references back to the Bible. Sometimes it takes a slightly different approach to get a message to sink in as it did for me. I especially love a story that teaches and leaves me happy or content. I am recommending this book to my friends.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 19-06-21

Listen and Hear

Well done in every aspect. A journey to be shared and emulated. A story to remember.

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  • Andre Theron
  • 04-04-21

Very inspiring story

The writer incapsulate the path of christianity in this fictional tale grounded in real events. The book gives you a great feeling of fellowship with the characters and strengthens my Christian resolve.

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  • Any Time Now, Jesus
  • 21-03-21

From the Perspectives of Jesus' Contemporaries

What if you had been alive, and part of the Jewish communities in Judah and the near diaspora at the time of Jesus' first coming? What and how would you, and your family, friends, and neighbors be saying, discussing, questioning, deciding, believing, and responding if you had lived during those years?

This book follows one family through the 33 years of Jesus' life, and how his teachings and his acts impacted them and their communities.

This title offers unique, enriching, and thought-provoking perspectives to both those who believe and to those who do not.