The Genius of Jesus

Erwin Raphael McManus

Have you ever felt like there is a potential within you that you just have yet to tap? Erwin Raphael McManus’ “The Genius of Jesus” (September 2021) might just offer the key you have been looking for on your search. On my last trip to the library with Anna and Peter I haphazardly came across the title on a ledge that caught my attention. It’s a quick read at 189 pages and offers the reader powerful insights into the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Whether you are a believer in Jesus or not, this book might help any spiritual seeker to sort out questions about what has drawn so many people over the centuries to the carpenter from Nazareth.

McManus lays out his thesis in 8 chapters each describing the different aspects of Jesus’ genius. The author contends above all else that Jesus was a genius and that everyone has the ability to live a similar genius life. McManus writes, “To fail to see Jesus as a man is to dismiss the complexity of his thinking, the brilliance of his ideas, the power of his character and the beauty of who he was in full. Jesus is without question among the world’s greatest geniuses” (22).  And unlike other geniuses who’ve lived throughout history, the genius of Jesus becomes more than just a hope in our lives. It becomes a lived expression of being.  

The book is an attempt to see and understand Jesus a part from his divinity and in probing his human nature we are led on this adventure of how genius Jesus truly was and how we can tap into that power of genius. McManus suggests 4 marks of a genius: they are heretical, they are original, they are transformative in their filed and they are extremist (16). Jesus checks each box and contends each of us have the ability to have these marks in our own lives.

I think the author does a nice job of unwrapping the person of Jesus using his own spiritual journey, questions and experiences.  It will help to know that the author does pastor a church movement called Mosaic in Los Angeles, although that is only slightly referenced in the book.  McManus was an immigrant from El Salvador who grew up Roman Catholic but has experienced a wide exposure of spirituality in his life that led him to critically think about the power of genius in Jesus that awaits us all. 

The part of the book that I resonated most with was the chapter on the genius of empathy. Jesus didn’t just have sympathy- he empathized and truly took the heart of another person and puts it inside his own soul. McManus is right to say Jesus connected to the human experience at the deepest level and shows this when he weeps over Jerusalem and at the death of Lazarus. In a time when many of us feel broken and broken-hearted, God’s full display of empathy in Jesus shows us that we when we just listen to one another, we can heal our pains and hurts.  

Erwin McManus does a great job taking the reader on a quest to know more about the humanity of Jesus which ultimately means finding out more about ourselves. The book helped me understand better that there is a genius inside each of us capable of doing amazing things. For anyone wanting to know more about Jesus’ humanity and your own potential, this would be a good place to start!

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