We all know who Jesus is--or think we do. We see children flock to him and gentle wisdom lovingly pour from him. We see the kindest man in the world. But these pictures are deceptively familiar.
In the Gospels Jesus says and does many puzzling things--like shriveling a fig tree or telling followers to keep his miracles a secret. He is hard on his opponents, the Pharisees, but also makes extreme demands on his followers--like urging them to be as perfect as the Father in heaven.
Tim Stafford, informed by acclaimed New Testament scholars such as N. T. Wright, takes us behind such two-dimensional images by unearthing the specific historical and cultural situation of Jesus' day. What Jesus said about the kingdom of God, about sin, about Satan, about prayer, about the temple, about Israel and the people of God were all profoundly affected by his being a Jew in a land dominated by the ancient Romans.
In fact, through his message and actions he meant to change things far more profoundly in his day and ours than we can ever imagine.
"In an age when much of Christian truth is obscured from view in the church because of its accommodation to the prevailing culture, we need prophetic voices that direct us back to the message of the Bible. Tim Stafford meets this need as he brilliantly exposes the implications of Jesus' life and teaching to us today. This may not be a message the church wants to hear; but it is one the church needs to hear. I have written two books on Jesus, but several times when reading this book I found that God was speaking to me specifically with comfort and challenge and giving me many refreshingly new insights. Yet the book is written in such an understandable style that it would be an excellent resource to give to an inquirer wanting to know who Jesus really was."
"Each decade deserves a fresh look at Jesus, and Tim Stafford has presented us with this one's--one answering questions of current thought, yet remaining consistent with historic truth. Jesus IS--and we can supply our own adjectives--but here you can't escape being surprised! In sequence, I believe you'll be surprised by the lilt of the book's style, by the lift it brings to your own soul and, most significantly, by the life that breathes through your mind's exposure to the reality of Jesus' person, power and purpose."
"When I pray, 'Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,' I am asking God to do, well . . . what Tim so powerfully describes in Surprised by Jesus. As a kingdom-hearted Christian, my relationship to Christ simply must 'connect' to other believers, as well as make a difference in this hurting world. No doubt about it, the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord--and the book you hold in your hands shows you how to be a part of God's strategy to make it happen!"
"With the grace of an experienced and kindly guide, Tim Stafford helps us scale some of the high peaks and rare air of the Gospels. By making accessible and relevant some of the most important scholarship on Jesus today, Stafford allows all of us--even pastors, professors and layleaders--to be genuinely 'surprised' and challenged by Jesus anew. The chapter on preaching alone should be required reading before any attempts to teach from the Gospels today."
"Why am I surprised to be, well, surprised, at Surprised by Jesus? My immediate response is how livable the life of Jesus is for us--livable in secularized North America and in our much-maligned church. Tim Stafford has given us Jesus without clichés, without moralisms, without polemic. And accurate. Jesus not only as he was, but as he is."
"An open reading of the Gospels reveals what has always been true: Jesus is awkward to deal with. Jesus is compelling but not comfortable. Jesus is familiar but not pegged. Jesus is compassionate but not sentimental. Jesus is Jewish but not exclusive. Jesus is provocative but not reductionist. These and many other extremely important things shine out through Tim Stafford's Surprised by Jesus. By all means, read it--but watch out!"
Stafford unearths the changes Jesus meant to affect, in his day and ours.
Surprised by Jesus is personal and easy to read, while introducing readers to some of the most important scholarship on Jesus. This book is appropriate for any church library.
1. The Deceptively Familiar Jesus
2. Why Repentance? For What Sins?
3. Joining People Who Disappoint You
4. Jesus' Temptations
5. Jesus' Message--and Ours
6. The Kingdom of the Improbable
7. Preaching for a Movement
8. The Radical Center
9. Works of Power
12. Going to Jerusalem
13. Symbolic Language
15. The Risen Lord
16. Resurrection Life
Name and Subject Index