The Jesus I Never Knew

“More than 1900 years later,” said H.G. Wells, “a historian like myself, who doesn’t even call himself a Christian, finds the picture entering irresistibly around the life and character of this most significant man…The historian’s test of an individual’s greatness is ‘What did he leave to grow?’ Did he start men to thinking along fresh lines with a visor that persisted after him? By this test Jesus stands first.” You can gauge the size of a ship that has passed out of sight by the huge wake it leaves behind.

If you asked a random person on the street if they knew who Jesus was, chances are they would say yes. Or at least they would have an idea about who Jesus was. Whether they were a Christian or not, they would have something to say if you asked them to describe who this man was. If you asked 10 random people for an answers to the question “who was Jesus?” you would most likely get 10 different answers. Some might say that His was a good teacher, or a great example of the moral perfection. There may be some that say that Jesus is a piece of fiction, not a real person but something that was made up to cover lies or build a vast empire. Others may even call Him a liar or a lunatic.

To think that these are simply the answers given by unbelievers, or people that do not call themselves Christians, would be to ignore the real challenges that people have with this man named Jesus. That includes Christians. The claims that Jesus made about Himself, the ideas that Jesus proposed can be troubling when they are taken seriously. Jesus’ claims to be the Son of God and to be one with His Heavenly Father were considered blasphemous by people in his day; today the claim is seen as simple madness. Jesus’ teachings to love an enemy and to resist violence were seen as completely counter cultural in a war driven world. Today we wouldn’t stop to think twice about an enemy and are continually locking in combat.

So, who is this Jesus? What do we make of Him, and His teachings? That is what journalist Philip Yancey seeks to tackle in The Jesus I Never Knew. Offering new and different insight into the mysterious man Jesus, Yancey builds a case for a Jesus that most people do not know. And that would include Christians. As Yancey moves through the events of Jesus’ life, his miraculous birth, his very human temptations by Satan, all the way to Christ’s death and resurrection, preconceived ideas and traditional blinding notions of Christ will be slowly removed. All readers will see the character of Jesus to take on more flesh and personality, that He was in fact a real person. Readers will encounter the astounding power of the words Jesus spoke while being explained in the context of Jesus’ day, and challenged by these words that are still potent and relevant today.

While this may seem to be a topic that has been covered by many before, the eloquent and raw emotional way that Yancey explores and explains who this Jesus is, and the implications of His life and teachings makes The Jesus I Never Knew a book unique upon the book shelves. As one professor said, “…probably the best book about Jesus in the whole century”, making this exactly what those with questions about this Jesus are looking for.

“…If Jesus had never lived, we would not have been able to invent him.”

Everyone has questions about Jesus. Whether they come from the more theologically minded Christians or the cynical and skeptical unbelievers, the laundry list of questions about who Jesus was often leave people in the dark. To dismiss these questions, from believers or not, would be a grave error according to Philip Yancey. To completely discount what others have stumbled over or gotten hung up on, would be to ignore the reality of this quest, the quest for the answer to “who is this Jesus?” Thankfully, Yancey doesn’t. In fact, Yancey embraces these questions. He doesn’t belittle them or call these questions a lack of faith on anyone’s part. These questions are what drives The Jesus I Never Knew.

Personally, that is a huge plus when I consider keeping or getting rid of this book. Yancey isn’t scared to ask questions. This book is filled with them. And that makes sense as he is a journalist. Asking questions is his job, but you can also feel his faith behind every pondering statement. This is a book about who Jesus really was, but it is also a book about a man’s journey discovering who this Jesus really was. Even after years of being a Christian, Yancey was still learning and growing in his knowledge and relationship with this Jesus.

His learning and growing experience spoke directly to me, helping me in my own learning and growing relationship with Christ. The Jesus I Never Knew brought up questions that I had but had not asked. It gave me answers to things that I had never thought about before. And though I seem to be going on about the questions and the importance of questioning in this book, the answers are so much more important. What Yancey has unveiled for me, and I’m sure for many readers, is a much more human, relatable Jesus. A Jesus that we could imagine a little bit easier. Yet, in the same breathe, Yancey has revealed a Jesus that is continually challenging people, pushing them to an ideal that is of the purest and holiest quality. The Jesus I Never Knew invites all readers to examine, even for the first time, the seriousness of what Christ spoke of and did. This is something that all Christians and non believers need to grapple with, and on more than one occasion.

c is one book that will be ON MY SHELF for a very long time, and should be on the shelf of every Christian, regardless of where they are in their spiritual walk.

Have you read The Jesus I Never Knew?

What did you think of it?

Is it ON or OFF your shelf?

Let me know in the comment section.

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One thought on “The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey: Book Review

  1. JESUS calls all HIS followers to be
    absorbed in a single, exclusive
    devotion and passion: HIM !!

    JESUS CHRIST~the crucified,
    resurrected, enthroned, triumphant,
    living Son of GOD

    HE is our passion, our purpose,
    our life !!


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