Thursday, September 5, 2013

A review of John Piper's book, "The Passion of Jesus Christ" (Crossway Books 2004)

“As parents, we know we would never do anything to harm our children. So we know that God the Father didn’t send His Son Jesus to the cross. But we learn from this that God suffers senseless pain just as we do.”

And with that, a row of pastors collectively jaws dropped. It was Good Friday in Felton, California where traditionally a group of protestant churches gathered to remember Christ’s death. On that day, seven pastors were sharing seven to nine minute sermonettes on the last seven words of Jesus. A new pastor to the San Lorenzo Valley was invited and she was giving her take on, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.”

She argued there was no inherent purpose in Christ’s death on the cross and that it seemed to take God the Father and Jesus by surprise. But the good thing we get out of it was that whenever we suffer on boo-boo, we can know that God feels our pain.

The next pastor up dropped his prepared text and used Scripture to take the previous talk apart. But I’ve been amazed at how many clergy people I’ve come across through the years since then who believe Christ’s death on the cross was some terrible cosmic accident.

I recently read a book on theodicy by a Catholic priest who claimed to love the song “How Great Thou Art” except for that nasty verse three that reads, “And when I think, that God, His son not sparing, sent Him to die”. He argued God would never do such a thing.

John Piper’s “The Passion of Jesus Christ” not only cites Scripture that shows that the crucifixion of Jesus was part of God’s plan, but that it was in fact The Plan of History. Piper then goes on to show fifty different purposes God accomplished through the death of Jesus.

Obviously, many of those purposes will come quickly to mind to anyone who has stayed awake through a communion service in church. Jesus died for our redemption, justification, sanctification and salvation. Piper makes it clear that these are different things and uses God’s Word to show why each of these theological concepts are important and great gifts.

But he also points to unexpected benefits of the Cross such as strengthened marriages and battling racism and many other great things were accomplished at Calvary.

A fairly short book with a powerful message; it would be a great devotional during lent.

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