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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


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 sinnerson 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


  • Pages


  • Published


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Overall rating

5.0 based on 3 reviews

Another Convicting Look at Jesus

As someone who's been a believer for 15 years, I am always skeptical when someone says they are going to tell me something about Jesus that would surprise me. Yet Dane Ortlund takes familiar ideas and takes a fresh approach in looking at themes from the individual Gospels which did end up surprising me at times. I'm reminded that I have arrived in full understanding in the morality, mission, community, and identity of Jesus. Insights about how the entire literary structure of Mark sheds light on Jesus' self-sacrificial mission and how we should see that mission was a profound insight I had not considered before. It made me want to go read the Gospel of Mark again! My favorite quote comes from Ortlund's exploration of Matthew where he talks about our hearts outlook on our salvation and law versus grace. If all that we are is by grace and not by our own keeping of the law, "then there is no limit to what God can ask of us. But if some corner of our virtue is due to personal contribution, there is a ceiling on what God can ask of us." I pondered this for a long time and found I often find myself thinking this way. Jesus owes me something because I live a certain way. This helped me reorient once again back to the jaw-dropping grace of God in Christ. This book has something for everyone! From overviews of literary structure of Mark to devotional gold in Matthew, there is something for the Bible nerd and the new believer. I highly recommend this book from our team at EP and 10ofThose. I gave it to a family member once I had finished because I had to share it! I know you will too.

Derek Hunter

Nourishing and Challenging Look at Grace

A wonderful book on the surprising and powerful nature of Christ as seen through the four gospels. This book will nourish and challenge your faith!

*I am an employee of 10ofThose but was not required to give a positive 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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