Jesus. There’s just something about that name.* On one hand he is one of the most well known figures in all of human history. On the other hand he is one of the most controversial figures in human history. Yet he is also one of the most misunderstood figures to ever walk the earth. For many, Jesus is the way of salvation. They see him as he is revealed in the writings of the New Testament. For others, however, they are not so sure. They are skeptical and believe that the bold claims of the New Testament writings are outlandish and cannot be fully trusted. Many people go through life without giving Jesus another thought, other than what they heard growing up. To them he is just another historical figure that has no bearing on their lives. Yet if the claims of the New Testament are true, one cannot simply shrug Jesus off as just a good guy that did some good things once. This then poses the question, can we be sure that Jesus, as revealed in scripture, is who he says that he is, namely Immanuel: God with us? This is what author and cultural apologist Rebecca McLaughlin discusses in her new book Confronting Jesus: 9 Encounters with the Hero of the Gospels (Crossway, 2022).
As stated in the book’s subtitle, Rebecca discusses nine key aspects of Jesus that one must face before they can pass from skeptic to believer. Each of these are important aspects of the person and work of Jesus. For the sake of brevity, only four will be discussed in this article. Looking at the table of contents, the first two and last two chapters are the most important to grasp.
Jesus the Jew
The first aspect about Jesus that one must come to terms with is that he was a Jew. More broadly, the point that Rebecca is making is that Jesus was in fact a real person who lived on earth roughly two thousand years ago. Yet more specifically, the point is that Jesus was not just merely a real human being, but that he was in fact a Jew. The significance of which is crucial for the salvation of the world. Jesus was not just a good man who did some good things. He was not even just a good man who died on a Roman cross and rise from the dead. Rebecca’s point is that the Jewishness of Jesus is not secondary to the story. It IS the story. If Jesus were not a Jew, he would not be the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, and all of humanity would be without hope.
Jesus the Son
Yet Jesus was not just a good Jewish man, who did some good things. He was God in flesh, who stepped into human history to take on the sins of the world and gave his life so that the salvation of many would be secured. If Jesus were just a good Jewish man, but not also God then the world would be without hope. One of the most important prophecies that Jesus fulfilled is found in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: See, the virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel” (CSB). Within the context of Isaiah, this prophecy could get missed. Yet this theme is picked up in Matthew 1:22-23, “Now all of this (the birth of Jesus) took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated: ‘God is with us’” (CSB). That last part is the key to understanding the prophecy from Isaiah, that God would step into human history in the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus the Sacrifice
The Jewishness and Godness of Jesus are crucial to understanding who he is. Yet one cannot escape the fact that Jesus came to earth on a mission. This mission was to glorify God through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead to secure the salvation of sinners. This theme of sacrifice is found all throughout the Bible. The first mention of sacrifice is in Genesis 3:21, when the Lord provided covering for Adam and Eve from the skin of an animal. It is picked up again in Genesis 22, when the Lord provided a ram in the place of Isaac. Sacrifice is seen all throughout the pages of the Old Testament in the sacrificial system of the Jewish people who would offer sacrifices all year, but primarily on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). Jesus became the greater ultimate sacrifice as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).
Jesus the Lord
Lastly, a person can believe that Jesus was a Jew, that he is God, and that he was a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Yet not to trust that Jesus is Lord renders any supposed faith in him invalid. In this chapter, Rebecca argues that Jesus proved that he is, in fact, Lord by rising from the dead. One must rest their faith on this truth for their faith to be truly saving (1 Corinthians 15:12-22). Without the resurrection of Jesus, Christians “should be pitied more than anyone” (v.19). Trusting in Jesus as Lord is to put all of our eggs in one basket. Yet this is what the lordship of Jesus demands. In fact, it is the only way to have saving faith.
The best feature of the book is the last section of each chapter titled “So what?” By posing this question Rebecca is forcing the reader to think about how the truths she just discussed have bearing on their lives. This makes the heavy truths she discusses personal, and forces the reader to deal with them. In fact, this is how Jesus interacted with skeptics, he would put the question back on them and force them to think about what he had just said. This part of the book proves helpful.
A note to the potential reader, Rebecca makes reference to movies (Harry Potter in particular), books, TV shows, etc. These pop culture references tip her hand as to the target audience of the book, namely young people 18-35. This is not a negative critique of her methods. In fact, it is one of the strengths of the book. The book does not claim to be a scholarly apologetics book for academic debates. It is unapologetically (no pun intended) a cultural apologetics resource aimed at young skeptics. For this reason, not all readers will find the book helpful. Yet for the audience to which it is intended, Confronting Jesus can be a very helpful resource that the Lord can use to bring them to faith.
Confronting Jesus is an excellent resource for the skeptic on the fence about the person and work of Jesus. Rebecca’s approachable writing style draws the reader in to what she has to say. Even if a person walks away unchanged, they can appreciate her perspective and approach to weighty matters. This book would be great to keep on hand to give out to friends and family members who are seeking to know more about Jesus. Along with the companion study guide, this book would make a great resource for group study. Rebecca leaves no grey area. The reader must decide if Jesus is who he says he is, or not. There is no room for casual acquaintance, with God made flesh. One either trusts him as master and savior, or they don’t. One day, “every knee will bow…and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 4:10-11, CSB). Kings and kingdoms will all pass away. Yet there is just something about that name.* Jesus.
*A reference to the song written by Bill and Gloria Gaither “There’s Something About That Name” lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group, Capitol CMG Publishing
Editor’s Note: This title was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Zach Kendrick is the editor of Reading For The Glory.
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