Holy Week and Easter Reading
A pleasant surprise: The first page of a book about Jesus recites the Apostles Creed. Just as rare is a statement like that found on the next page:
The firm conviction of the authors of this book is that behind the creed, behind the faith claims of the Christian movement, is history. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are not merely theological ideas but actual events—actual events that awakened faith and later prompted theological inquiry.
The book is Jesus, The Final Days: What Really Happened by two very prominent NT scholars, Craig Evans and N. T. Wright (Evans, incidentally, taught a “Major Figures” Ph.D. seminar here at Concordia Seminary last winter). The book is a brief (107 pages) but detail-filled walk through the events at the end of Jesus life, from the trials after his betrayal to Easter.
Evans, the author of the first two sections (on Jesus’ death and burial), argues that “the Jewish authorities sought to kill Jesus not because he was a good man but because Jesus was perceived as a very serious political threat. His message of God’s rule threatened the status quo.” This death was indeed anticipated by Jesus; there are strong reasons to accept that the predictions of his death narrated in the gospels were not merely words put into Jesus’ mouth by later followers. The section on the burial contains a large amount of background material, information that is not readily available in commentaries.
The third section, by Wright, will be familiar to most seminary graduates from their reading of his The Resurrection of the Son of God and perhaps also Surprised by Hope. Nevertheless, this is a helpful little summary his arguments. A particularly helpful section walks through the reasons that we moderns have difficulty making sense of Jesus’ resurrection.
This little book won’t replace your commentaries, but it would be a great read before Holy Week, and something that you could pass along to someone in your congregation. It is not technical in nature, it doesn’t use footnotes. It will help flesh out your teaching and preaching, or even perhaps your devotions as you again read the gospels.
While I’ve got you, I’ll recommend again a book I posted about on the resurrection: Christopher Bryan, The Resurrection of the Messiah. I didn’t see this book until June last year, well after Easter–if you didn’t read it last summer, now is a good time.