Six books Christians should read on the death of Jesus

books-on-cross

Easter is a very important time of year for Christians (And in other news, water is wet). It’s a time of year when the last vestiges of cultural Christianity work in our favor and people actively come to church (which means an opportunity for them to hear the gospel that they might not have otherwise). But it’s also a time when we more intentionally reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

While no book can substitute the kind of preparation that comes from reading our Bibles, here are a few easy-to-read books that are worth considering:


Scandalous by D.A. Carson

Based on a series of lecture delivered in 2008, Scandalous is Carson’s “modest attempt . . . to provide an introductory explanation of the cross and resurrection,” as he looks at what five passages of Scripture have to teach us about this central point of the Christian faith. This short work is one of the best primers on not only the central event of the Bible, but of human history.

Scandalous…highlights important theological truths in accessible and applicable ways. Both amateur theologians and general readers will appreciate how Carson deftly preserves weighty theology while simultaneously noting the broader themes of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Through exposition of five primary passages of Scripture, Carson helps us to more fully understand and appreciate the scandal of the cross.

Learn more: my review

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul

“If it is true that the cross is of central importance to biblical Christianity, it seems that it is essential for Christians to have some understanding of its meaning in biblical terms,” writes R.C. Sproul in the opening pages of The Truth of the Cross (pp. 5-6). This small work takes readers on a walk through the Scriptures to show the necessity of the cross:

Opening the Scriptures, Dr. Sproul shows that God Himself provided salvation by sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross, and the cross was always God’s intended method by which to bring salvation. The Truth of the Cross is an uncompromising reminder that the atonement of Christ is an absolutely essential doctrine of the Christian faith, one that should be studied and understood by all believers.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


The Cross of Christ by John Stott

I can’t think of a more important book on the cross written in the last 20 years;

“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. . . . In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” … From one of the foremost preachers and Christian leaders of our day comes theology at its readable best, a contemporary restatement of the meaning of the cross. At the cross Stott finds the majesty and love of God disclosed, the sin and bondage of the world exposed.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Raised with Christ by Adrian Warnock

Adrian’s excellent book does a wonderful job of showing that it’s not just the cross that matters—we dare not neglect the resurrection:

In Raised with Christ, author Adrian Warnock exhorts Christians not to neglect the resurrection in their teaching and experience.Warnock takes his cue from Acts, where every recorded sermon focuses on Jesus’ resurrection. He stresses that Christians who faithfully proclaim both the death and the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and live out the implications of that message in vibrant,grace-filled churches, will be enabled to reach a world that lives in death’s dark shadow.

Learn more: my review

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Raised? by Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson

As I wrote in my review, Raised? offers a thoughtful and welcome apologetic for a newer generation of doubters. They don’t want to scare off doubters or make people shy away from questions. But they do want them to be willing to do something with their doubts—find answers.

Buy it at: Amazon


The Final Days of Jesus by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor

One of the things I love about this book, incidentally, is the authors actually go into the date options for the crucifixion (which is kind of neat).

On March 29, AD 33, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem and boldly predicted that he would soon be put to death—executed on a cross, like a common criminal. So began the most important week of the most important person who ever lived. … Designed as a day-by-day guide to Passion Week, The Final Days of Jesus leads us to re-examine and meditate on the history-making, earth-shaking significance of Jesus’s arrest, trial, crucifixion, and empty tomb.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


While there are so many others worth considering, these are a few of the books I’d recommend checking out as you prepare for Easter. What are some you’d recommend?

Seven Miles

From Matt Chandler’s sermon, “The Call to Mission:”

Download to the full message or listen here (if the audio’s working):

An excerpt from the transcript:

“That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.” Jesus kept up with them for seven miles. Let me tell you why this is important. The resurrection of Christ historically causes a lot of trouble for the secular mind. So there’s all these theories about how do deal with it. One of the theories is that when they arrested Him, beat Him a dozen times, yanked the beard out of His face, drove nails through His hands and feet, after they yanked the skin off His back and left Him hanging there for six hours and then took a spear and drove it under His ribcage through His lungs and back out, spilling and water all over the cross, maybe they didn’t kill Him.The theory is that they put Him into the ground, and two days later He’s jogging to Emmaus with two guys seven miles after being crucified and beaten for close to 20 hours. That’s ridiculous. You’d have to be an idiot to believe that theory. I’m not trying to offend you. Have you ever broken a toe and tried to walk without looking like your hips have exploded inside of your pelvis? And the historical Discovery Channel theory is that, two days after this unbelievable beating, Jesus is walking to Emmaus for seven miles. That’s just silly. So for all the goofiness that is Christianity, that’s right up there with the dumbest things you could say we believe. It’s silly to believe that, two days after having your full body weight bear down on a nail driven through the center of both of your feet, you’re jogging a seven mile jaunt to Emmaus.

Around the Interweb

Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?

Insightful videos featuring Dr. William Lane Craig:

 

HT: Justin Taylor

Also Worth Reading

Controversy: Adrian Warnock had a face-to-face conversation with Rob Bell about Love Wins. It’s a very interesting listen (albeit incredibly frustrating at times).

Easter: Jesus and the Martyrs

Business Ethics: The 4 P’s of Business

The Persecuted Church in China“If This is What God Intended, So Be It”

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

He Will Be Holy To Make You Holy

Book Review: Redemption by Mike Wilkerson

Fully, Finally, Unquestionably, and Irrevocably Vindicated

The Power of The Resurrection

Only If A Substitute is Provided

Let the Law, Sin, and the Devil Cry Out Against Us

Only If A Substitute is Provided

Can the penalty of sin resting upon all mankind be remitted? Plainly not, if God is to remain God. That penalty of sin was ordained in the law of God, and the law of God was no mere arbitrary and changeable arrangement but an expression of the nature of God Himself. If the penalty of sin were remitted, God would become unrighteous, and that God will not become unrighteous is the most certain thing that can possibly be conceived.

How then can sinful men be saved? In one way only. Only if a substitute is provided who shall pay for them the just penalty of God’s law.

The Bible teaches that such a substitute has a matter of fact been provided. The substitute is Jesus Christ. The law’s demands of penalty must be satisfied. There is no escaping that. But Jesus Christ satisfied those demands for us when He died instead of us on the cross.

J Gresham Machen, The Doctrine of the Atonement: Three Lectures (Kindle Edition)

The Power of The Resurrection

The grotto of Gethsemane, where it is believed that Jesus was arrested following Judas' betrayal. Photo by Gary Hardman

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:8b-11)

Good Friday looms and I can’t get Phil 3:8b-11 out of my mind. When Paul writes of having lost everything—absolutely everything—for the sake of Christ, he’s not playing around. He went from, by his own account, being a star on the rise among the Pharisees to one of the most hated men among the Jews of his time. Everywhere he went, he faced dramatic opposition, and was even stoned and left for dead (then he got back up and was preaching the next day—see Acts 14:19-20).

Paul went from persecuting Christians to planting churches. The Church’s greatest opponent became her strongest advocate.

What was it that motivated his single-minded pursuit of the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ? The power of the resurrection.

Paul wanted to know Christ and the power of the resurrection—which meant that he had to share in his suffering. Suffering that, if the resurrection weren’t real, would have been unbearable.

If the resurrection didn’t happen, what reason would Paul have had to turn his back on his promising career among the Pharisees?

If the resurrection didn’t happen, what reason would he have had to say, “I consider it all rubbish?”

If the resurrection didn’t happen, what reason would he have had to say, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain?”

What reason would he have had to endure beatings, starvation, imprisonment, character assassination and ship wrecks?

Nothing.

No reason.

Sometimes people wonder if a literal resurrection actually matters. Would we lose anything if Jesus was raised spiritually or just in the hearts of his followers, some ask. Paul’s testimony and Paul’s contention in the book of Philippians answers that with a resounding “Yes!”

If there were no real, physical resurrection from the dead, Paul would not have been able to endure any of this. No one would.

Without the resurrection, we lose everything. And all we have left is rubbish.

Fully, Finally, Unquestionably, and Irrevocably Vindicated

The grotto of Gethsemane, where it is believed that Jesus was arrested following Judas' betrayal. Photo by Gary Hardman

If Christ had remained dead like any other “savior” or “teacher” or “prophet,” his death would have meant nothing more than yours or mine. Death’s waves would have closed over him just as they do over every other human life, every claim he made would have sunk into nothingness, and humanity would still be without hope of being saved from sin. But when breath entered his resurrected lungs again, when resurrection life electrified his glorified body, everything Jesus claimed was fully, finally, unquestionably, and irrevocably vindicated. Paul exults in Romans 8 over Jesus’ resurrection and what it means for believers:

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Rom. 8:33–34)

What an amazing thought—that the man Jesus now sits in splendor at the right hand of his Father in heaven, reigning as the King of the universe! Not only so, but he is even now interceding for his people, even as we await his final and glorious return.

Greg Gilbert, What Is the Gospel? (p. 68)

He Will Be Holy To Make You Holy

Matt Chandler on the power of the resurrection:

[tentblogger-youtube p1U62GMO2pY]

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

Around the Interweb (04/04)

7 Miles

Matt Chandler explains why the idea that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross is ridiculous:

In other news

The Ten Most Surprising Things About the iPad (via Z)

Jared Wilson shares “10 big reasons why Easter giveaways are a FAIL

Wisdom, Complexity and Chilling the Heck Out

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

An interview with Adrian Warnock, author of Raised with Christ

“Too Staggering a claim to remain neutral” – Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears on the Resurrection

Maybe the problem is we’re not frightened enough

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the dishonesty of unbelief

Go to Dark Gesthemane

The grotto of Gethsemane, where it is believed that Jesus was arrested following Judas' betrayal. Photo by Gary Hardman

Go to Dark Gesthemane is a hymn written by James Montgomery that takes us from Christ’s “dark night of the soul” in the garden of Gesthemane through His death, burial and resurrection.

As Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus today, these lyrics serve as a potent reminder of why the gospel truly is Good News.

Go to dark Gethsemane, ye that feel the tempter’s power;
Your Redeemer’s conflict see, watch with Him one bitter hour,
Turn not from His griefs away; learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

See Him at the judgment hall, beaten, bound, reviled, arraigned;
O the wormwood and the gall! O the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss; learn of Christ to bear the cross.

Calvary’s mournful mountain climb; there, adoring at His feet,
Mark that miracle of time, God’s own sacrifice complete.
“It is finished!” hear Him cry; learn of Jesus Christ to die.

Early hasten to the tomb where they laid His breathless clay;
All is solitude and gloom. Who has taken Him away?
Christ is risen! He meets our eyes; Savior, teach us so to rise.

HT: Challies

God's Wonderful Surprise

A great video to watch with the kids based on illustrations from The Jesus Storybook Bible with narration by David Suchet.

HT: Justin Taylor

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Dishonesty of Unbelief

The popular teaching is that you cannot believe [the] records we are given, but that does not matter at all as long as you get the “religious value” of the stories. It does not matter whether or not Jesus was born of a virgin; it does not really matter whether or not He worked miracles or atoned for our sins by His death. It certainly does not matter whether He arose in body from the tomb.

The facts do not matter, they say, as long as you have the religious value of Jesus and His teaching.

In a sense, these apostles preached nothing but the facts, which to them were all-important.

They kept on talking about “the things which we have seen and heard.”

The experience of these men came directly out of the facts about which they were constantly speaking. If your experience does not result from the facts of Christ’s life and death, it is not a Christian experience.

If there was a time when we need to emphasize the facts, these great foundational facts on which the whole of our faith is based, it is the present moment. The world is as it is because it does not believe these facts. If you give your experience to the world, it will say, “All right, if that’s the sort of thing that pleases you, get on with it. I’m not interested; it has nothing to do with me.” On top of that, you can hear proponents of the cults saying, “Believe us, and you will get happiness. Though you have not slept for years, you will be able to sleep peacefully.”

But we preach facts, and we preach the apostolic witness to the facts, including this tremendous, glorious fact of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Resurrection is indeed a fact.

These apostles did not merely preach that Jesus—the one whom they had all known and listened to, the one who had been crucified and who had died and was buried—was still alive in the other spiritual realm. They did preach that, but the Resurrection does not merely mean that Jesus is still in existence in the spiritual realm. It means much more than that, and this is what we must be clear about.

These men preached the empty tomb.

They said: “We were witnesses, we saw Him crucified, we heard his cry of dereliction, we heard Him saying at the end, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’ (Luke 23:46). We saw them taking down His body; we saw them laying it in a tomb, rolling a stone in front of the entrance, sealing it, ordering Roman soldiers to guard it. We saw that, but we also saw the empty tomb on the morning of the third day.”

That is what they were witnesses to, and that is what they preached—not merely that Jesus can still help us from the unseen realm, but that Jesus literally rose, leaving nothing behind except the grave clothes.

He arose in the body; it was a changed body, but it was essentially the same body, His body. He was able to show them His hands and side. You remember the incident in connection with Thomas, who was very slow to believe and stumbled at it. “Reach hither thy finger,” said our Lord, “and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side” (John 20:27). It was the same body, but changed.

Now, of course, our scientific age cannot believe anything like that, but they could not believe things like that in the first century either. In the last chapter of Matthew we read that the clever people at that time invented a story and bribed the Roman soldiers to tell a lie in order to disprove the Resurrection. They went as far as that, and people are doing similar things today.

That is the dishonesty of unbelief.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Courageous Christianity, pp. 165-166 (emphasis & paragraph breaks mine)

It’s Friday… But Sunday’s Coming

HT: Justin Taylor

Calvin: Righteousness was Renewed and Restored by His Resurrection

Next follows the resurrection from the dead, without which all that has hitherto been said would be defective. For seeing that in the cross, death, and burial of Christ, nothing but weakness appears, faith must go beyond all these, in order that it may be provided with full strength.

[A]lthough in his death we have an effectual completion of salvation, because by it we are reconciled to God, satisfaction is given to his justice, the curse is removed, and the penalty paid; still it is not by his death, but by his resurrection, that we are said to be begotten again to a living hope, (1 Pet. 1: 3;) because, as he, by rising again, became victorious over death, so the victory of our faith consists only in his resurrection.

The nature of it is better expressed in the words of Paul, “Who (Christ) was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification,” (Rom. 4: 25;) as if he had said, By his death sin was taken away, by his resurrection righteousness was renewed and restored. For how could he by dying have freed us from death, if he had yielded to its power? how could he have obtained the victory for us, if he had fallen in the contest?

Our salvation may be thus divided between the death and the resurrection of Christ: by the former sin was abolished and death annihilated; by the latter righteousness was restored and life revived, the power and efficacy of the former being still bestowed upon us by means of the latter. Paul accordingly affirms, that he was declared to be the Son of God by his resurrection, (Rom. 1: 4,) because he then fully displayed that heavenly power which is both a bright mirror of his divinity, and a sure support of our faith; as he also elsewhere teaches, that “though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God,” (2 Cor. 13: 4.)

In the same sense, in another passage, treating of perfection, he says, “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection,” (Phil. 3: 10.) Immediately after he adds, “being made conformable unto his death.” In perfect accordance with this is the passage in Peter, that God “raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God,” ( 1 Pet. 1: 21.) Not that faith founded merely on his death is vacillating, but that the divine power by which he maintains our faith is most conspicuous in his resurrection. [Read more…]

Maybe the Problem is We’re Not Frightened Enough

In the book of Revelation John describes his intense and completely overwhelming vision of the risen Jesus:

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”

Revelation 1:12-18

This is impressive, isn’t it?

Jesus calls Himself “the first and the last.” He declares, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”

When John sees this, he “fell at his feet as though dead” (v 17); a natural response to seeing Jesus in all of his glory.

These are mind-boggling descriptions and they remind us of a reality that we need to embrace fully:

We need to develop a healthy fear of God.

I wonder if we don’t spend so much time trying to make Jesus palatable in North America that we forget this reality sometimes? If we focus on Jesus being our example, our Rabbi, our teacher and less on His being our Prophet, our Lord and King… He doesn’t seem like someone we would ever have a reason to fear, does He? [Read more…]