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Friday, September 14, 2012

"Who Is This Man?" (John Ortberg)

TITLE: Who Is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus
AUTHOR: John Ortberg
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012, (222 pages).

One question drives the quest of this book: Who is this man? From the pen of one of the the Christian world's most prolific writers, we are invited to travel along with John Ortberg in a biblical quest for the Person of Jesus Christ. The simple question begins the book with wonder, about how a man who has lived more than 2000 years ago, with little earthly titles or professional qualifications, are still immortalized in the minds, in the architecture, in literature, and in the history books of mankind. For one who comes to the world without much dignity afforded by the world, the humble Jesus gets mistreated, bullied, and not even given "equal rights" by the society then, despite him being totally innocent. He begins a revolution not with power and might but with humility. He defies common wisdom known to man. Instead of talking about compassion, he shows it. Instead of chatting about righteousness, he lives it.

Jesus also has a heart for the women of the biblical times. Ortberg sensitively highlights a culture where men outnumber women on a ratio of 140 to 100. He tries to maintain respectability for women too, for He is not interested simply to follow Jewish customs. He is tasked with the creation mandate, to care for all creation. He values the women in a culture that treats women second or third class.

Jesus is also a distinguished scholar without the public distinction. He is a teacher, a rabbi, a prophet, a priest. Ortberg traces the education process through the ages, from Jesus to Cicero, from monasteries to modern universities, from the Renaissance to Postmodernism. Yet, Jesus is a great man, not because of what he has done, but because of his purpose of doing it all for the sake of the Father in heaven.

The question "Who is this man?" becomes the lens that Ortberg uses to see relationships Jesus has with the people he meets daily. Jesus deals with both the religious leaders as well as the despised, friends as well as enemies. Jesus epitomizes a counter-cultural icon as He deals with the Jewish and Roman authorities, not only with wise statements, but also controversial ones. His boldness to enter into tension shows us how difficult it is even for the son of Man to engage the world. Jesus comes to show us not about the good life, but a "good person." For that, I will think it is more accurate to say that Jesus does not come to make bad people good, but dead people live. From philosophy to relationships, from acts of compassion to teachings of God and life, Jesus is there leading the way. He points us not just to have compassion for this world, but to have the conviction of the heavenly kingdom.

At the end, the answer lands on the Person of Jesus Christ. All that Jesus has done, all that He has taught about God the Father, and all that He has tried to help, all boils down to reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ.

My Thoughts

This book by John Ortberg is a sharp focus on one person.  Instead of just saying "Jesus is the answer," he shows it through more than 200 pages of questions and observations about the life of Jesus, the teachings of Christ, and the hope of the kingdom. By comparing and contrasting earthly concerns and heavenly ones, Ortberg often makes readers sit up and ponder about things we often take for granted.

  • If Jesus is able to live mightily for God despite the gross disadvantage, what about us?
  • If Jesus is persecuted for doing the right thing, why is anyone complaining now when we are bullied and cursed for trying to obey God?
  • If Jesus has given adequate value for all people, should we not do the same?
  • Are we constantly reminding ourselves that the greatest miracle is Jesus rising up from the dead? 

So, "Who is this man?" is not just a quest or a plain question. It is a search for truth. It is a search for the Giver of Truth. It is an honest reflection of this person who has come to earth, lived and died for our sake, and who deserves not just to be debated, but accepted as He is. I like the way Ortberg calls heaven and earth not as two separate spheres, but two overlapping and intersecting into one common space: The temple of God. In Jesus, we have a meeting of heaven and earth. In Jesus, "Who is this man?" becomes not just a question. It forms a desire to want to have a relationship with this Son of God.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Zondervan and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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