Encounters with Jesus

EWJ 2 Because yesterday (January 31st) was a holiday, I was able to finish Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions, written by one of my favorite authors, Timothy Keller. (I can’t believe I’ve been so busy my last blog was three months ago!)

The book is a compilation of talks he gave to students in Oxford on Jesus’ encounters with a skeptical student (Nathaniel), the insider (Nicodemus) and the outcast (the Samaritan woman), the grieving sisters (Martha and Mary), the wedding party, and the first Christian (Mary of Magdala); and to businessmen at the Harvard Club in New York on the great enemy, the two Advocates, the obedient Master, the ascension of Jesus, and the courage of Mary. In terms of originality and size, it is not as great as Keller’s The Reason for God . Nevertheless, Encounters with Jesus is densely filled with powerful reminders, if the percentage of pages I dog-eared is any indication. May these quotes bless you!

Here is something to remember when inordinately afraid, angry, or defeated: “First, [a false god] will enslave you… That means that if anything threatens it, you will become inordinately scared; if anyone blocks it, you will become inordinately angry; and if you fail to achieve it, you will never be able to forgive yourself. But second, if you do achieve it, it will fail to deliver the fulfillment that you expected.”  (pp. 28-29)

A powerful reminder on what forgiveness is: “Either that person pays or you pay.” (p. 77)

A good reminder on the inevitability of suffering for being a child of God: “Deep down we cling to the simplistic idea that if we are good, life will go well. Yet if there are demonic forces, it stands to reason that true goodness and godliness would actually attract and stir up those powers to attack.” (p. 109)

A comprehensive reminder on the “main front” of Satan’s attack: “Satan wants at all cost to stop people from ever acquiring this kind of power. For people who don’t believe Christianity, he aims to keep them blind to who Jesus really is. He wants them to believe that Jesus is [merely] an especially nice man. For people who think they believe Christianity but don’t understand that salvation is a free gift through Christ, Satan hopes to keep them ignorant of the gospel itself… But for those of us who know in principle that we are adopted, loved sons and daughters, Satan wants us to slide back into a self-image based on our moral performance, our goodness and efforts.” (p. 118-119)

A useful reminder on the best defense during spiritual battle: “Our best defense against Satan’s lies is…not the production of incantations but the rehearsal of truth.” (p. 122) “When you are in moments of pain or shock, the things that come out of your mind and mouth are the most  primal things in your being. And when Jesus was in such moments [cf. his temptation, his crucifixion], out came the words of the Bible.” (p. 123)

A powerful reminder of what Jesus does as our first Advocate: “And so [Father]—I am not asking for mercy for them; I’m asking for justice.” (p. 139)

A gentle reminder on the work of the Holy Spirit as our second Advocate: “How can you listen better? That’s a big subject, but if you are a believer, then the Holy Spirit will do his work as you use the “means of grace” – reading and studying the Word by yourself and in community, prayer, worship, and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. If you don’t use the means of grace, you are not giving the other Advocate scope to do his work.” (p. 145)

On Jesus’ love for God and all mankind: [When Jesus began to pray in the garden of Gethsemane] “he suddenly sees into the abyss.” (p. 156) “It is one thing to know something cognitively in the abstract and quite another thing to know it with one’s whole being… We may know in our minds that the experience in the dentist’s chair will hurt…Now what if somehow while you were still at home deciding to schedule the appointment you could have, for a minute or two, a foretaste of what the actual pain could be like?” (p. 159)

On Jesus’ love for his friends: “In the depths of his agony [in the garden] he can still find something affirming to say to his friends.” (p. 167)

On Jesus’ love for you and me: “Jesus not only pardoned you; he also pinned his (italics added) ‘Medal of Honor’ on you.” (p. 168)

A reminder of the meaning of the Ascension: “The elevation in space symbolized the elevation in authority and relationship. Jesus was tracing out physically what was happening cosmically and spiritually. And what was that? He was going…to to take his place as the new king and head of the human race.” (p. 175)

A reminder on the implications of the Ascension: “To say that Jesus is making everything work together for your good means that not only are bad things part of his plan but also little things.” (p. 184)

May the Lord bless Timothy Keller with a long and satisfied life! I hope to be able to study under and work with him one day.  🙂


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