John Coleman has written a delightful and inspirational book in The Unexpected Teachings of Jesus: Encountering the Gospels All Over Again. Coleman’s treatment of the teachings of Christ brings fresh and practical insights to familiar Gospel stories.

This book can be used to prepare devotionals, or as a daily study for small groups. It contains practical discussion questions after each chapter. This work will both challenge and motivate the mature Christian or the young seeker

Coleman divides his work into five sections. The first section is “The Blindside Teachings,” which includes a wonderful treatment of Luke 5:1-11, when the fishermen left a miraculous catch to become followers of Christ.

Readers will be impressed and surprised at the practical approach the author takes to the “miracle catch.” A deeper lesson will surface in the way the fishermen abandoned their careers to answer the call of Christ.

The next section is “The (Re)Visionary Teachings.”  The story of Jesus the criminal from Luke 23:26-43 is a compelling look at challenging power systems. The section dares the reader to choose between rocking the boat for justice and simply keeping the peace.

The third section is “The Shalom Teachings.”  In this section Coleman addresses the Lord’s Prayer, miracles and how Jesus uses everyday experiences to teach valuable lessons.

An example of the Shalom Teachings is found in John 14:18-31. In this text, Jesus uses the life experiences of the disciples to prepare them for his absence. Coleman invites us to consider how we face unexpected trials and losses in life.

The fourth section is “The Perilous Teachings.” Many readers will be moved by the discussion of discernment in Mark 3:1-6 and the grand illusion in Matthew 4:1-11, which is a practical application of the crises of life stages which bring temptation.

The fifth section is “The Restorative Teachings.” Coleman skillfully addresses acceptance and restoration, areas believers must consider in human relations.

Our world is full of opportunities to meet people like Jesus met at the well of Sycar. Coleman encourages us to reach across boundaries to minister to and include the outcast, hurting and lonely in life.

This is a brilliant work and lends unexpected practical insight into the teachings of Jesus for readers at every stage of discipleship. The reader will be challenged to leave his or her comfort zone and explore new ways to serve the world.

Jim Royston is executive director/treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

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