God is in the business of relentlessly pursuing rebels like us and… he comes after us not to angrily strip away our freedom but to affectionately strip away our slavery so we might become truly free. Surprised by Grace, p82 – Tullian Tchividjian (Crossway, 2010)

When you think of Jonah, the first word that springs to mind is not typically “gospel”. Normally, it is “whale”, almost exclusively so in fact. There are songs and Vegetale movies attesting to this correlation. In word association games all over the world, Jonah is always paired with our marine mammal friends.

In this recent release from Crossway books, author and pastor Tullian Tchividjian shares his insights into the book of Jonah, and how it not only relates to the gospel, but positively reeks of that good news. Fashioned out of a sermon series, the book itself is brief, well written and engaging. Tchividjian puts forward the idea that the gospel is not exclusively for the non-Christian, but is equally necessary for the Christian’s daily life too. Speaking of Luther’s famous simul justus et peccator, he says that Luther “understood that while he’d already been saved (through justification) from sin’s penalty, he was in daily need of salvation from sin’s power.” (p.17)

Though the heart of the book is simple, Tchividjian does a wonderful job of leading us through the story of the prophet and showing not only the flaws in Jonah, but the flaws in himself and in us, the reader. Surprised by Grace is certainly not light reading, for it will illuminate the areas where we have become proud or arrogant or judgmental, and will call us to receive the gospel anew in Jesus who “is the storm. Jesus is God’s gracious intervention for those who are enslaved to themselves. He comes loudly, not subtly, with an aggressive affection to pursue fugitives like you and me.” (p.52)

Throughout we see references from the rich heritage of the Church, with Luther, Calvin, Chesterton, Grudem, Piper and others fleshing out a well exegeted study of Jonah, full of parallels across the Scriptures. A nice addition to the text is a series of art reprints that depict the story of Jonah and are referenced through the book. This added a visual flair to the reading experience that served the purpose well, drawing bolder pictures of the runaway prophet and his journey away from and back toward the God who pursues.

There’s not a person I know who wouldn’t be enriched and rewarded by reading this excellent book, and for recentering the infamous story of the man who was swallowed by a whale back onto Jesus, I must commend and thank Tullian.


A review copy was provided to me at no charge by the publisher. No attempt was made to gain a favorable review, and all opinions and recommendations expressed are the author’s own.