Exploring the life of Jesus through the Gospel of Mark.
Preacher and author Keller (Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just, 2010, etc.) provides a fresh biography of Jesus from an evangelical standpoint. Focusing on Mark, the earliest, shortest and most direct of the four gospels, the author paints a picture of a savior who was sure of his own identity and fate while most of those around him were not. Keller locates various themes from Mark’s narrative and discusses each in turn, grouped under two major headings: “The King,” regarding Jesus’ identity, and “The Cross,” regarding his purpose. In discussing the identity of Jesus, the author describes him as a man both deeply imbedded within his culture and times while also living counter to them in many ways. Jesus never doubted his identity or his ability and indeed made it clear from the beginning that he was not merely the messiah, but something more than what his culture had expected in the messiah—he was God’s son. Of course, writes Keller, few understood the magnitude of his identity and his message. Moving on to Jesus’ ultimate purpose—or from a broader standpoint, the purpose of his incarnation—the author describes a man aware of his upcoming sacrifice, and indeed, a man in continual sacrifice, as he had descended from heaven to live on earth. This sacrifice is the true model for human love: “All real, life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice.” Keller’s work is more than a description of Jesus; it is also peppered with pastoral advice. His goal is for the reader to better understand Jesus in order to better imitate his life. Unlike the many academic and sensational biographies of Jesus in recent years, this one takes faith in Jesus largely for granted. The narrative is well-researched, with numerous references to authors as diverse as C.S. Lewis and Franz Kafka, but Keller does not attempt to prove Jesus’ divinity or find the “historical Jesus.”
Captivating reading from a Christian perspective.