ARMS OPEN WIDE by Sherri Gragg, reviewed by Sarah George


Publisher: Thomas Nelson

ISBN-13: 978-1400323463

Date: May 13, 2014

Sherri, your book is a work of art! Every page has captured the serenity and chaos of life in the times of Jesus. In Master of the wind and waves, you have depicted the transformation of Peter from clumsy fisherman into one moved by the awesome presence of divinity.

In Beauty for Ashes, we are struck by the tender care of a widowed mother of her only son. The grief of losing him brings tears into my eyes. You have expressed the agony of the mother against the backdrop of a Middle Eastern household in such a touching manner. It is so tangible that one could cut it with a knife. Then the command of the Creator of heaven and earth that transcends time and space and exacts instant obedience from the grave. What a sight that must have been!

The Untouchable One opens a world of untold grief where there is no way out. The living dead! But what strikes the reader is the determination of the suffering soul to be healed. And what a compassionate Savior!

Mathew’s response in Follow Me is so heart warming. He wanted the love of the Almighty God after a lifetime of being the target of disgust by his fellow Jews. 2 words Follow Me made all the difference. From now on all his talents and abilities would be used for Jesus.

The terrible sorrow of the mother whose daughter was demon possessed drove her to the feet of the Savior and her faith in His Divinity brought joy and laughter back into her life. We serve a God who can feel our anguish and meets our deepest needs. Hallelujah!

The beauty of being forgiven by our Lord and the hope of glory brought Mary with the Alabaster jar to Jesus. She knew she would be the cynosure of all the eyes in the room. Sherri captures the magnitude of the situation and the moment of victory with the acknowledgement of the Savior “Your faith has saved you; go in peace”

We see the magnificent porticoes of the Pool of Bethesda and the suffering souls seeking solace. Sherri leads us to one man whom Jesus would lift from defeat to victory. What a scene! Crowds of people desperate to enter the pool, shoving and pushing, driven by the belief that healing was just a dip away! Then the Creator zeros on the most depressed of them all, the one whose attempts had resulted in failure time and again, the one who tells the Savior that he has no one to help him. As the incredulous crowd watched, this outcast obeyed Jesus and walked away restored. We feel joy vibrating through the massive columns as the touch of the Savior changed a life forever. The author explores the joy of friendship, the encouragement that only real friends can give, the sincere belief they had in the healing power of Jesus that made them attempt the impossible. As we read the story we are filled with awe and admiration for this group of friends who were certain that their efforts would not be in vain. Their joy knows no bounds as their friend is free from bondage.

In the stirring, insightful and revealing chapter titled “The Restoration of Peter,” the author shows how Peter’s personal brokenness opened doors of intimacy with Jesus. Peter found a love beyond anything he had ever known. This powerful story challenges, inspires and motivates. What a fine summons to the battlefield. What a restoration for the man who will be the greatest revolution the world has ever known! Peter, the man who once told Jesus to forget the cross now transformed, changed forever.

As for the chapter titled “Thomas’s Doubt,” down through the ages, Doubting Thomas’s acknowledgement of Jesus rings true for every Christian. Central to the event is the truth that God has the solution for every dilemma known and that the answer assuredly is available to everyone who will persevere with God. There is a penetrating, convicting message to every Christian. Priceless treasure is within your reach and with it liberating joy.
In the chapter titled “Nicodemus,” Sherri Gragg reinforces the ordinariness of these men’s lives evening extraordinary times and keeps the reader riveted, long after the last page. It was a time of revolutionary political and social change. The elegance of the prose and depth of characterization combine to create a powerful and poignant journey into the time when Jesus lived on earth. Nicodemus and Joseph’s courage in those perilous  times came from the deep and abiding love they cherished for Jesus.  Their determination to give the Savior a proper burial brings to the foot of the cross. The writer expresses the agony he endures as he struggles to understand the cross. The symbolism is so powerful.  They enter the spiritual Kingdom of God as they accept the body of the crucified Savior. I hope millions will read this book.

© Sarah George


Sarah George won a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review in the Book Giveaway by HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson

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