Surprised by Jesus

Surprised by Jesus

His Agenda for Changing Everything in A.D. 30 and Today

by Tim Stafford

Surprised by Jesus
  • Length: 253 pages
  • Published: June 23, 2006
  •  Print on Demand
  • ISBN: 978-0-8308-3340-5
  • Item Code: 3340
  • Case Quantity: 28
Print on Demand

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."

Ajith Fernando, national director, Youth for Christ/Sri Lanka, and author of Jesus Driven Ministry

"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."

Dr. Jack W. Hayford, founding pastor, The Church On The Way, and chancellor, The King's College and Seminary, Los Angeles

"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!"

Joni Eareckson Tada, Joni and Friends

"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."

Dr. Tod Bolsinger, pastor, adjunct professor and author of It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian: How the Community of God Transforms Lives

"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 clich├ęs, without moralisms, without polemic. And accurate. Jesus not only as he was, but as he is."

Eugene H. Peterson, translator of The Message, and Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia

"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!"

Mark Labberton, Senior Pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley

Stafford unearths the changes Jesus meant to affect, in his day and ours.

Missiology, July 2007

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.

Ruth S. Smith, Congregational Libraries Today, May/June 2007


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
10. Praying
11. Warning
12. Going to Jerusalem
13. Symbolic Language
14. Gethsemane
15. The Risen Lord
16. Resurrection Life
Discussion Guide
Name and Subject Index
Scripture Index

Tim Stafford

Tim Stafford is a senior writer for Christianity Today. Among his many books are Knowing the Face of God, As Our Years Increase, The Student Bible (with Philip Yancey), a trilogy of historical fiction (The Stamp of Glory, Sisters, The Law of Love),Never Mind the Joneses, and Love, Sex and the Whole Person. He and his wife, Popie, live in Santa Rosa, California.

BY Tim Stafford