on November 19, 2013
The foundation for the writing of this book was laid when Tim Keller was in college. He had recently come into a personal relationship with Christ and learned how to study the Bible guided by a book entitled Conversations with Jesus Christ from the Gospel of John by Marilyn Kunz and Catherine Schell. In close proximity to this study he learned how to read and study the Bible inductively. He attended a conference for Bible study leaders where one of the instructors had each student take 30 minutes to make 30 observations from Mark 1:17, “And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” In the first 10 minutes he thought he wrote down everything he had observed about the surrounding passage from the text. However, the gold was mined in minutes 20-30. It was through the patient and inductive wrestling with the text where the gold was found.
In this book of encounters with Jesus Tim Keller mines spiritual gold.The first five chapters are based on talks given by Keller to students – most of whom were spiritual skeptics – at the Town Hall in Oxford, England in 2012. These first five chapters reveal the foundational teachings of Christianity and the astonishing character of Jesus in particular as he encounters Nathanael, the Samaritan Woman and a Pharisee, Mary and Martha, Guests at a Wedding Party, and Mary Magdalene. In each of these encounters important questions are addressed to and by Jesus and one learns how to read the Scriptures copiously and glean the answers to life’s greatest questions. Questions such as: What is the world for? What’s wrong with the world? Can anything or person make the world right? How can we be part of the solution to making the world right?
Keller’s thesis is that “if you want to be sure that you are developing sound, thoughtful answers to the fundamental questions, you need at the very least to become acquainted with the teachings of Christianity. The best way to do that is to see how Jesus explained himself and his purposes to people he met–and how their lives were changed by his answers to their questions.” Therefore, the first half of this book is devoted to encounters “others” had with Jesus.
The second half of the book is devoted to how we can encounter Jesus today in the 21st century. How can we be changed by Jesus? How can we know Jesus intimately and personally? How can we discover what the people discovered in the biblical encounters with Jesus in my own life? The second half of the book is based on talks that Keller delivered at the Harvard Club of New York City over a period of several years. Keller was addressing business, cultural, and governmental leaders – highly educated individuals who shared their doubts and questions with Keller. Therefore, by highlighting pivotal events’ in Jesus’ life – his temptation with Satan, his sending of the Holy Spirit, his road to the cross, his ascension, and his incarnation – we learn of the significance of the Person and work of Jesus Christ in the Gospel.
I think this book is an especially good book to give to spiritual skeptics. With the holidays coming upon us it would make a great gift for friends, people you work with, and loved ones whom you desire to know Jesus personally and intimately. Keller writes cogently, concisely, and compellingly. He wisely interprets and applies each encounter with Jesus and highlights why we all need Jesus in our lives. For each human being there is no greater encounter that we can have than with the person and work of Jesus in and on our behalf. I highly recommend this book to quench your thirst for the only One who can satisfy our thirst – the Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s popular today to hear people say, “You believe what you believe but I don’t believe that”. When you ask people to elaborate on what they believe and why they believe it, you are likely to get them to state something to the effect of “I feel this way”. Are our beliefs based on only on our feelings? Moreover, many people also state that religion is private and doesn’t need to be shared publically. Others earnestly contend that Jesus is just another religious teacher or prophet. So who is Jesus and what has He come to do? Does it even matter if we believe in Jesus at all? The historical Christian answer to that question is it does matter. It matters because Jesus came as the God-man to live a sinless life, to bled, to die, to rise, ascend, and serve as the Mediator of the New Covenant, Intercessor, and High Priest of His people. Since all of that matters what could be better than a book that tackles not only what our culture is saying about Jesus, but also what Jesus Himself said. Dr. Tim Keller’s book Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions, tackles these important questions.
Encounters with Jesus is essentially a collection of ten encounters of Jesus with people in the Gospels. As Dr. Keller examines these encounters, he takes both a wide and narrow lens. With a wide lens, he zooms out to see what the culture is saying about Jesus. On the narrow lens, Keller takes us into the world of the Bible. The combination of understanding what people are saying about Jesus and what Jesus Himself has said is a potent and explosive formula that will help both Christian and skeptics better understand the work of Jesus. Books like this are important for several reasons in our culture so as I conclude this book review, I’d like to focus on two specific reasons why I think you should read this book.
First, reading this book will help you understand that Jesus is not just some teacher or prophet. Conversely, He is the Son of God, Son of Man, and the Lord Jesus Christ. He was not defeated at the Cross, but rather rose from the dead and now serves as the High Priest and Intercessor over His redeemed people. This is especially important to understand because people are increasingly coming into our churches with limited to no biblical framework on how to understand how Jesus desires to invade their lives with His story of redemption and why he seeks reconciliation of them with Himself. It is precisely for this reason why Encounters with Jesus is so important.
Finally, many Christians, even those with a background in the Church, do not understand what our culture is saying about Jesus. Some of this is because they reject everything the culture says as unhelpful or ungodly, so they toss it out immediately never trying to interact with or understand the cultural perspective with a view to engage those views with the Word of God and the Gospel, demonstrating the superiority of the Christian worldview. Keller does a masterful job with keeping one ear to the culture and his eyes firmly entrenched on the Word of God. The culture today is rapidly changing, but the Church has a timeless message in the Gospel because behind that message is an unchanging God whose promises are yes and amen in Jesus Christ. As Keller engages the person and work of Jesus Christ, his model for how we engage others with the Gospel is noteworthy, demonstrating the need to not assume anything, to be as clear as you can, and above all, to be explicitly biblical and gospel-centered. Encounters with Jesus is an excellent book because it helps seekers and those who think Jesus is just some teacher or prophet to understand that He is in fact who He claimed to be, the Son God and the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ who bled, died, rose, and ascended for His people.
To read Encounters with Jesus is to step into a world where Jesus is King, to come to grips with who He is and what He has done, and His claims on all of our lives. The Puritans taught Jesus often divided the audience between those who were playing religious games and those who were serious about following Him. It is in this spirit that Encounters with Jesus shines the most and why I recommend you read it. Keller’s effort will help you understand the claims of Jesus, the person of Jesus, and why that matters. I recommend this book for seekers and for every lay Christian or scholar to read and digest so they can come face to face with the risen Christ. Even as a Christian of many years, I was challenged and blessed by this book and I pray the Lord will use this book in the life of His people. Furthermore, I pray Jesus would use this book to open the eyes of the blind to what He has done in His death, burial, and resurrection so they might come to know and serve the risen Lord Jesus.
on May 6, 2014
** This review originally appeared on longing4truth.com **
Tim Keller has established himself as one of the top evangelical writers of today, especially in writing to an audience of skeptics and unbelievers. He has been given a unique gift and ability to interact with the intelligent skeptics on their level, which is most clearly seen in his bestseller, The Reason for God. Because of his church's placement in the middle of Manhattan, surrounded by the young, intellectual-type, Keller has honed his ability to interact on their level with the truths of Scripture and Christianity.
In his new book, Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life's Biggest Questions, Keller is at it again. The book comes out of two series of lectures that Keller presented a couple of years ago. The first series of lectures was given at an Oxford Town Hall in Oxford, England in 2012. Over 5 nights, Keller spoke to a group of students — most of them skeptics — on the various encounters that individuals had with Jesus in the Gospel of John (xii). These make up the first 5 chapters of the book, where in each chapter Keller looks at a different interaction that Jesus had with people in John. These include the conversation (1) with Nathaniel in John 1; (2) with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman in John 3-4; (3) with Mary and Martha in John 11; (4) with Mary, Jesus' mother, in John 2; and (5) with Mary Magdalene in John 20.
In each of the five conversations, Keller looks at a different fundamental life-question that Jesus is addressing in his conversation with the individual.
Chapter 1 - Where should we look for answers to the big questions of life? Where shouldn't we look for answers?
Chapter 2 - What is wrong with the world the way it is?
Chapter 3 - What, or Who, can put it right?
Chapter 4 - How can He put things right in the world?
Chapter 5 - How should we respond to what He has done?
As you read each chapter, Keller exegetes the passage at hand in the clear and concise way that we have all come to expect from Keller, which is what makes reading his books so profitable and enjoyable.
The second section of the book transitions from the conversations Jesus had with individuals in the Gospel of John and moves to how we, today, can encounter Christ — how we can encounter Him as savior. The basis for these chapters was a series of talks that Keller gave at the Harvard Club of New York City, where he "spoke at regular breakfast meetings to business, government, and cultural leaders over the period of several years" (xv). In these final five chapters, Keller looks at some of the pivotal events in the life of Jesus as they are presented in the Gospels.
Chapter 6 - He overcomes evil for us
Chapter 7 - He intercedes for us
Chapter 8 - He obeys perfectly for us
Chapter 9 - He leaves earth to reign for us
Chapter 10 - He leaves heaven to die for us
Now, you may be thinking, "Why didn't Keller include the 3 best-known event in Jesus' life — His birth, death and resurrection??" Keller addresses this on page 104, saying that these events are more familiar to us, and generally more clearer to us. It is not, by any means, that he does not view these as "pivotal events" in the life of Jesus. Rather, he focuses on 5 pivotal events that are less known to us, and because they are less known to us, their significance to the Christian faith is less clear to us.
Not really knowing what the book was all about when I first got a copy of it, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It was written, as I've already said, in a very clear and concise manner, as well as in a very engaging manner. As with many of Keller's other books, I think I could use this for a variety of contexts. I could use it with a believer to think more deeply about the truths of Christ, who He was, and what He has done. But I could also use it with an unbeliever. Because of Keller's writing and teaching style, I think that the book would not be, on the surface, intimidating and threatening to an unbeliever. But I think that as an unbeliever worked through the book, he would come face to face with the Jesus of the Scriptures and the truths of the Gospel. Keller says, as he ends the introduction, that his hope is that "whether you are looking at these accounts for the first time or the hundredth, you will be struck again by the person of Christ and what he has done for us" (xvii). His hope certainly became a reality for me as I read the book, and I trust it will for you as well. I would definitely recommend you getting a copy for yourself, and if you have an unbelieving friend who would be willing to read this with you, get them a copy too. You'll be glad you did.
In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Dutton Publishers for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
on June 18, 2014
Quick Read...able to finish it while traveling across country. I thought it would be a good book to shore up some of my go-to arguments when I need to fight doubt, but it was much more than that. Keller gave me arguments for belief in God that I'd never thought of before, based mostly around stories of encounters with Jesus. The one that surprised me most was the story of the Ascension--a story I have deliberately avoided thinking about because it just seems so implausible. Keller attacked it head-on, giving solidly good arguments for the necessity of the physical ascension of Christ.
He also dealt with another old foe of mine---why was Jesus' death so agonizing, when there were other martyrs who died horrific deaths yet with seemingly much peace. I was completely engrossed in Keller's logical explanation of the all-consuming wrath of God and the acceptance of Jesus in taking the cup. I did not realize how much significance the cup had in scripture, when He prayed that the cup may pass Him by.
I relished in this quote by Augustine regarding the ascension..one I had never heard before:
"You ascended from before our eyes and we turned back grieving, only to find you in our hearts."
My small group bible study leader chose this book for our study in the spring of 2015. After almost ten months have past, I still think of this book and what it has to offer. I would encourage you to read the sample provided in the "Inside this book" feature for just a small glimpse of what is inside.
Incredibly well written and you can easily read one chapter at a sitting. Depending upon your interest, you can leave it at that or re-read and study the text to discover how deep the material really is. We did one chapter each week and we found that each chapter generated plenty of discussion to fill our 1.5 hour get-togethers.
It is probably my favorite bible study book yet as Timothy Keller doesn't just tell the reader that "this is what you should believe", but backs it up with historical perspective and significance and clearly lays out the "why" he believes what he is sharing. There is no talking down to or shaming the reader for asking questions and challenging what he says. If you aren't a Christian, this is a good book to introduce yourself to the fundamentals of the religion and if you are a Christian, it can help deepen your faith based on facts rather than just accepting what you are told. I will definitely go back and re-read this at some point(s) and will also seek out other books by Tim Keller.
on March 26, 2014
Read a number of books by a particular author, and eventually you predictably anticipate a tone and recurring themes. Timothy Keller has written enough books to place himself in this category. With persuasive rhetoric, he’s rationally explaining the Christian faith: often to seekers, sometimes to believers who are encouraged by his prose --- not too rigorous, not too facile, not terribly technical, not overly anecdotal, but sprinkled with literary illustrations and philosophical quotations.
Here, in ENCOUNTERS WITH JESUS, Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City (originally meaning Manhattan, but now with more geographically diverse campuses), delves into gospel accounts of Jesus as he’s relating to his first-century contemporaries: Nathanael, called a “skeptical student,” being drawn to discipleship; Nicodemus, discussed alongside the Samaritan woman, “the insider and the outcast” finding identity and freedom in Christ; Mary and Martha, sisters grieving the mortality of their brother; the Cana characters, celebrating an unnamed couple’s wedding; and Mary Magdalene, the first witness to the Easter resurrection. The book title clearly hooks to these first five chapters as a unit.
Chapters 5 through 10 broadens out in its definition of “encounters” and its scope: Jesus’ wilderness temptation introduces Satan and the problem of evil; his Last Supper promise of “another advocate” provides a platform for discussion of the Holy Spirit, our helper; and the Garden of Gethsemane agony brings us to Christ himself as a model of obedience.
I personally liked best the last two chapters, not exactly in the “encounter with Jesus” category but thought-provoking reads nonetheless: about the ascension and its meaning, and about the angel’s announcement, the Annunciation, to Mary --- that she was the one chosen to carry and birth the Christ Child. That final chapter, aptly titled “The Courage of Mary,” connects Mary’s subsequent visit to her older cousin Elizabeth to the still-evident, universal need for community support, input and discernment. The last paragraph of the book is memorable.
Don’t worry, it’s not a plot spoiler --- there’s so much more in the earlier pages --- but it speaks: “Mary was a nobody who became greater than everybody, simply because God came to her and she responded in the humblest possible way. She reasoned, she doubted, she surrendered, she connected with others. You can, too.”
Reviewed by Evelyn Bence
on July 31, 2014
Encounters with Jesus contains ten Timothy Keller sermons rich in thought, insight, and encouragement. Keller preaches with three ideas in mind: pietistic, apologetic, and theological. Pietistic in that his sermons always warm the heart in devotion to Jesus. Apologetic for each sermon aims to defend the faith from its secular critics and explain the richness of the Faith to the questioning. Doctrinal, Keller weaves strong theological content throughout his messages educating believers in the truth of the Evangelical faith. I read each chapter in one sitting mediating on these three truths as a form of spiritual reading. In every chapter, I was encouraged spiritually, informed intellectually, and motivated personally. I have no doubt that if you desire to be feed Biblically, you will not go away hungry.
on September 11, 2014
Keller uses five Biblical encounters with Jesus to illustrate that Jesus is indeed "the way, the truth, and the light" for all mankind. Geared to the doubter and even atheist, Keller digs deep into the Bible, explaining cultural backgrounds that enhance Jesus' actions and words as he answers life's biggest questions. Keller also uses current or modern illustrations with which the reader can identify and which also clarify a passage. The reader is swept into Keller's comments through his easy reading style and no-nonsense analysis. At times, I felt as if I were one of the characters in the discussion! Written for those who doubt or disbelieve but who deep down have the hunger to know "what's it all about?"
on October 23, 2015
Keller, one again, brings the New Testament to life in ways that are accessible and enlightening to the Biblical scholar or the questioning skeptic.
The skeptic will be no more after Timothy Keller's 5 star read "Encounters With Jesus" with pearls of wisdom galore, from not just the story
and interactions of Jesus, but Keller lays solid historical foundation, weaving the narrative among the teachings of Jesus, the Gospels and the expansive writings of Paul and Luke.
Fantastic on Audible.
on March 2, 2016
Timothy Keller is the thinking man's theologian. We used this as a study guide for a Men's Bible Study, and it was quite useful. Not the most straightforward text - but it was never meant to be - some passages require some thought and re-reading. Worthwhile.