I’ve always got a book about Jesus in my reading stack. Here are three I’ve read recently:
Jesus: A Theography
Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola
Unlike biographies of Jesus that begin in Bethlehem, this book starts with the Trinity and explores the person and work of Christ through the Old Testament. Tracing the presence and power of the Son of God throughout the entire Bible, Sweet and Viola demonstrate the internal unity of the Bible and its focus on Christ as the cornerstone.
The Christ-exalting nature of the narrative gives this book the feel of a modern-day Patristic account of Christ’s life and significance. Imagine Chrysostom or Augustine writing a biography of Jesus. The appendix is a lengthy collection of quotes from post-apostolic witnesses to Christ as the center of the Scriptures. (I have a few Southern Baptist gems I wish had made the quote collection!)
I like how this book is relentlessly focused on the written Word’s testimony to the Living Word.
The Incomparable Christ
I love John Stott. He’s always clear, simple, winsome, and profound. A pastor friend recommended The Incomparable Christ, and I’m glad he did. This book didn’t disappoint.
- Stott begins with an overview of the Bible’s witness to Christ. He shows the portrait of Christ we find in every book of the New Testament.
- Then, he moves throughout church history, looking at the way different aspects of Christ’s life and work have inspired Christians through the years.
- Next, he traces the influence of Jesus on the world (including unbelievers).
- The book ends with a study of Revelation and how Christ is unveiled in John’s visions.
This is a book that will give you an overview of biblical theology and church history all at once. Brilliant!
Who is This Man? is a book of “subtle apologetics.” By that I mean it is unassuming and winsome in how it makes one central point: Jesus has undeniably changed the world for the better. In contrast to those who see Christianity as regressive and backwards, Ortberg shows just how much better off we are because of Jesus’ life and teaching.
Reading the book reminded me just how “upside-down” so much of Jesus’ ministry was. Here are a few quotes:
Jesus said it wasn’t the child’s job to become like Herod. It was Herod’s job to become like the child. Greatness comes to people who die to appearing great. No one else in the ancient world—not even the rabbis—used children as an example of conversion.
A saint doesn’t try to grab worth through an endless race of achievement, but receives worth by grace.
For Jesus, the categories break down like this: It’s not us and them. It’s perfect and not perfect. It’s holy and sinful. Which puts all of humanity on the same side: the wrong side. But Jesus was determined to make that his side.
The influence of Jesus helped create a state where people could choose not to follow Jesus. In this way, and not only in this way, Jesus is present even in his absence.
The book’s ending was a bit of a letdown. Ortberg invites the reader to experiment with following Jesus to see how it works out. (I thought his call to repentance could have been much stronger.) But don’t let that keep you from the book. There is a wealth of great material here, and Ortberg is a terrific communicator.