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Surprised by Jesus

Subversive Grace in the Four Gospels

Dane C Ortlund



Surprised by Jesus

Subversive Grace in the Four Gospels

Dane C Ortlund



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When God-in-the-flesh showed up twenty centuries ago in Palestine, the religious PhDs rejected him and the prostitutes and social outcasts flocked to him. Why? . . Because the open welcome of divine grace that Jesus offers, open to anyone who would simply leave their moral resume at home, is not predictable. It is not safe. It is subversive. . .

In this book, Dane Ortlund reflects on this subversive grace as it uniquely emerges in each of the four Gospel accounts. In each Gospel, the message and mission of Jesus is deeply surprising:

  • In Matthew, we see the surprise of disobedient obedience
  • In Mark, we see the surprise of the king undergoing the fate of a criminal
  • In Luke, we see the surprise of the insiders becoming outsiders and the outsiders becoming insiders
  • In John, we see the surprise of the Creator of the universe becoming one of his own creatures.

Such surprises confound our law-marinated hearts. But the good news that Jesus won with his own blood will not be tamed. This good news is defiant.

This book exists to exult in this good news and the scandalous mercy Jesus loves to pour out on needy sinners—on people like you and me.

Praise for the book:

"Dane Ortlund's Surprised by Jesus is a very helpful guide to a gospel-centered understanding of Christianity. Drawing from material gleaned from all four Gospels, Ortlund presents us with the compelling picture of 'subversive grace'—so different from the pale and timid imitation of pallid, anemic religion. Read this book and soak in the gospel of grace!"
— Josh Moody, Senior Pastor College Church, Wheaton, author of No Other Gospel

"The world wants justice and, truth to tell, the church often wants that too. In this book, Dane Ortlund makes the case from the Gospels that what the church and the world to whom she witnesses needs is grace. Grace is counterintuitive, beyond price, and yet totally free. Left to ourselves, we hate it. We see it as demeaning. We regard it as witnessing to our moral corruption and weakness. Yet grace is God’s way of salvation as revealed in the acts and sayings of Jesus in the four Gospels. This book is that strangest of things: the heartfelt rebuke which brings so much encouragement, freedom, and joy. Well worth reading."
 Carl R. Trueman, Professor, Grove City College

"I love the goal of Dane Ortlund's Surprised by Jesus: to fill our heart tanks with 'the high-octane grace that takes our conscience by the scruff of the neck and breathes new life into us with a pardon so scandalous that we cannot help but be changed.' This is the kind of grace that makes disciples so love the Savior that they will give their lives for his glory."
 Bryan Chapell, President, Covenant Theological Seminary

  • Title

    Surprised by Jesus

  • Author(s)

    Dane C Ortlund

  • ISBN


  • Format


  • Publisher

    Evangelical Press

  • Bible Book


  • Audience


  • Published


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Overall rating

5.0 based on 1 review


The aim of the book is to take the Jesus who we have domesticated, and made into our own image, and surprise us with the real Jesus of the gospels. Each gospel account gives us a specific shot of God’s grace in the person of Christ, and Ortlund gives us a deep hit of that grace as he digs into each of the gospels and blows us away with Christ. He shows us: - the perils of disobedient obedience, where the heart is hung up on the rules rather than the creator in Matthew’s gospel; - the outrageous grace of the outsiders being the insiders in Luke’s account; - the shock and necessity of the king hanging on the cross in Mark’s gospel; - the wonder of the creator taking on flesh in John’s gospel. Ortlund’s deep, heart-level understanding of all four gospels is brilliantly evident as he helps us be surprised by Jesus again and again. He is a wordsmith, and the crafting of the prose makes it a joy to read. Love his enthusiasm that seeps out of the book, and his deft weaving in the odd Puritan along the way. An outstanding book that shows us Jesus, gives us the mind-blowing reality of God’s grace and makes us want to read the gospel accounts for ourselves and delight in Jesus all the more.


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