Book Review: “Who is this Man?” by John Ortberg

  • 9780310340492_p0_v4_sPaperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan; Reprint edition (November 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310340497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310340492
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches


An Overview

A few weeks ago, with Christmas around the corner, I wanted to read a book on the life of Jesus. I had purchased John Ortberg’s Who Is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus a couple of years back. It was sitting on my shelf.

While a number of Ortberg’s titles are in my collection, Who Is This Man? is the first I’ve read in its entirety. Ortberg explores how the life of Jesus has impacted human life and history, from humanity’s dignity, to the arts, culture, government, marriage, education, womanhood, etc. Along the way, Ortberg interacts with a number of authors here and there, from different traditions and so on.

A Critique

As mentioned above, this is my first Ortberg in its entirety. He did not disappoint. Who Is This Man? reads quite well. While written on the bottom shelf, so to speak, the reader gets the impression that the book is well researched.

I was reminded once again, especially with Christmas only days away, of the impact of the life of Jesus, Immanuel, “God with us” (Isa. 7:14; see Matt. 1:23).  Ortberg does an outstanding job of reminding us of this. We tend to forget this. Only consider the calendar and how we refer to someone’s death. “Joseph Stalin died in the year of our Lord 1953” (p. 181).

Before the “Epilogue: A Staggering Idea,” Ortberg titles the three preceding chapters, beginning with “Friday,” “Saturday,” and “Sunday,” respectively. I like the concluding structure to the book. For the most part I get “Friday” and “Sunday” but thought he could’ve done more with “Saturday.” Of course there are the silence, disappointment, and despair of “Saturday.” But I believe Ortberg missed a great opportunity to point to Jesus as our Sabbath, our Rest, if you will. “On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56 ESV). Now reflect on Matthew 11:28-30 and Jesus invitation to rest in him.

At any rate, I commend Ortberg’s Who Is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus. We really need to be reminded of how Jesus has indeed impacted human life and history. It’s not just about a book.

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2 Responses to Book Review: “Who is this Man?” by John Ortberg

  1. Jon Hughes says:

    Hi TC,

    A very Merry Christmas to you and your family. One thing I like about Donald Trump is that he’s not afraid to say the word – here in the UK we have to put up with “Winterval” and other such excruciating terms!

    Regarding the book and Saturday, did the author touch on that part of the Apostles’ Creed which refers to Jesus descending into hell (Hades) and passages such as 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6? While evangelicals don’t make much of this, there’s a significant emphasis on “Saturday” among the Orthodox, I believe.

    It’s certainly food for thought regarding the day which is most often overlooked.

    • TC Robinson says:

      Hey Jon,
      Yes, Merry Christmas to you and the family as well. “Merry Christmas” it is. I just drove by a furniture store with a big “Merry Christmas” on display.

      Ortberg does mention Christ descending to hell briefly but not interaction 1 Peter 3 or other such texts, and nothing controversial. However he did make a pastoral conclusion that since Jesus descended to hell he understands the hell one might be going through and is right there with them.

      While I give him points for homilectics, I don’t know about theology. At best, it’s a lack of it. Perhaps it’s by the author’s design.

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