It's easy to wrap your mind around a verse or two. But most Christians have trouble comprehending the large-scale structure of the Gospels. Dane Ortlund's Defiant Grace: The Surprising Mission and Message of Jesus (EP Books, 2011) is a closer look at the overall gospel message of each of the four Gospels as revealed in their literary structure.
Did you know that the book of Mark divides neatly into two halves, and that in the first half Jesus appears as a triumphant king, culminating in Peter's confession that Jesus is the Anointed One? In the second half, by contrast, Christ's kingship is manifested in suffering as the path to victory. The choice is not between cross and crown: One must have both, or neither.
Ortlund's theme is grace-unearned, undeserved, given by God to us while we are still sinners. Homey metaphors enhance the book's message: "The Greek mind could no more conceive of the Logos becoming flesh than of the wind becoming mud."
If you're a Pharisee by nature-and you are-then this book is for you. It relentlessly focuses on the gospel, as revealed in Jesus' life and teaching. "It's time to blow aside the hazy cloud of condemnation that hangs over us throughout the day with the strong wind of gospel grace," Ortlund writes. By quoting and explaining large chunks of biblical text, this slim book helps remind us of the main point of the gospel. And that's a daily necessity.