Book review: Why Jesus?

by William H. Willimon


My previous review was a book with the same title: “Why Jesus.” That one was Ravi Zacharias; this is by William H. Willimon. I thought I would compare the two, but as it turns out, the two books are so different it’s a pointless exercise. I’ll give four stars to Willimon, simply for doing what he says he’ll do.

I confess, it took me a while to get into this one. The style doesn’t fit me; too hip, too informal. Too cute. An example will give you a feel for the book’s flavor: Jesus attends a “soiree” and a “woman of the city” shows up and makes a scene, caressing his feet, letting down her hair, and in general putting the party into an uproar. A Pharisee sneers that if Jesus were a real prophet, he would know what sort of woman she is. As Willimon tells the story,

Jesus replies to the Pharisee, “Simon, do you see this woman? I show up here expecting a good time, and you didn’t kiss me or give me a foot massage. She knows how to get down and party.”

Jesus then puts it in a parable: “A man was owed ten dollars by one debtor, ten thousand dollars by another. He forgave both debtors. Now, think hard, Mr. Religious Expert—which man was the most grateful?”

“Er, uh, I guess the one who was forgiven more,” answers the Pharisee.

Yeah, it took some getting used to, even though Willimon stayed true to his promise to present Jesus “as the gospels do”: a “wild, weird, and improbable character.” In time, however, I began to appreciate Willimon for his devotion to Jesus. I began to see why Jesus means so much to him. I began to see how many Christians, very different than me, can be inspired by this same Jesus—who seems to meet the needs of just about everyone one way or another. Jesus wears a dozen hats the way Willimon tells it. You’ve met Jesus the Party Person already, so I’ll just list the rest:

Home Wrecker

Whatever you’re looking for in a Savior, it’ll be in there somewhere!

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