by John Ortberg
So much has been written about our Lord that one is tempted to ask if there is anything more to say. As the daughter and granddaughter of Presbyterian ministers, I have been a follower of Christ since birth. And yet when I heard John Ortberg’s sermons in the series “Who was this Guy?” as a parishioner at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, I turned to my cousin (also a Presbyterian minister’s daughter) and said, “I never thought of it that way.” Thankfully, our Lord’s story continues to be revealed by inspired teachers who tell it in language that brings it to life for our modern, troubled times. In Who Is This Man? John has written a powerful testament to the impact that Jesus has had on human history, on the human condition, and on our understanding of the obligations of one human being to another.
This book reminds us first and foremost that Christ was a revolutionary figure. The apostle Paul’s summary statement of the faith was a thunderbolt in the ancient world: “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. . . . There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Before that revelation, one’s status from birth defined one’s life until the
grave. But with the coming of Christ, who humbled himself to enter our world as a helpless baby and die like a common criminal, it is now and forever clear that every life is worthy before God. It is from this belief that we conclude, “all men (and women) are created equal.”
Through countless biblical stories we are led to understand that Christ did not just say these things; he lived them. He dined with outcasts, touched the unclean, recruited women into his ministry, revealed himself after the resurrection to these “second-class citizens,” and chastised hypocrites who piously kept the letter of the law but cared little for their brethren. In the end, he would refuse to save himself from death on the cross in order to fulfill the promise of the resurrection — and in doing so, save mankind.
Those who followed him would begin to act as if every life is worthy. The community of people called Christians would minister to the sick and disabled and build hospitals, pursue universal education, spread teaching through universities, and lift up the poor in faraway places, “for they would inherit the earth.”
John Ortberg has demonstrated that nothing in our human existence has been quite the same since that fateful Sunday so long ago. We join Johann Sebastian Bach in saying (as he wrote at the beginning of his compositions), “God help me.” And we glory in the belief that our Lord answers. But we too often fail to say, as Bach did at the end of his magnificent works, “(Everything) To the Glory of God.”
So the real power of this book is in its exploration of the paradox of our faith: that acceptance of the Lord Christ Jesus is not a pathway to an easy life but a call to do hard things if we are to live in the image of our Lord. “Love my enemies?” “Give my riches to the poor and take up the cross?” “Die so that I might live?”
Jesus emerges from this book as a complex figure with a disruptive set of teachings — sometimes “cranky” with those who don’t get it, often tough on his followers, and yet compassionate with those in need. At the end, we want to know him even better.
In Who Is This Man? John Ortberg gives those who believe and those who are perhaps not so certain a compelling reason to seek answers. And he reminds us that seek we must, because there has never been a
more important question in the history of humankind.
Former U.S. Secretary of State