This blog post serves advance notice: Crossway’s recently released book, The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived, is a treasure for the church. Southeastern’s own Andreas Köstenberger and Crossway’s Justin Taylor have collaborated to produce a high quality devotional work underlain by excellent New Testament scholarship.
I plan to draw upon this book as I share with my family during the upcoming holy week. The book is not academic in tone: the prose is lucid and the limited footnotes mainly provide explanatory comments.
The Final Days of Jesus maps out in separate chapters each day of the Passion Week, from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday. Each chapter is, say, five pages long and works well as a daily reading. The chapters provide a harmonization of all four Gospels in the English Standard Version accompanied by a brief introduction and supporting commentary for each day’s events. Early in the week selected passages are provided, then from Wednesday to Easter Sunday the entire ESV text of each day’s account is reprinted in the chapter.
Köstenberger and Taylor deal with many of the difficulties in the Gospel accounts. These are often hailed as discrepancies by skeptics and can cause careful Christian readers to struggle to piece together four separate accounts of the same story. They write, “We acknowledge differences among the Gospel accounts of individual details and make an honest attempt to suggest plausible ways in which those accounts may in fact cohere.” (19) Thus, this book has apologetic value in addition to its contribution to personal worship.
In addition to the careful arrangement of Scripture and the thoughtful commentary, The Final Days of Jesus makes the Passion narrative come alive with maps that show the locations mentioned the Gospel narratives, color diagrams of Jerusalem, and charts that compare key passages and themes. The charts give visual learners a quick way to understand the flow of Christ’s High Priestly Prayer (82), or the overview of the days of the Passion Week that give Westerners fits as they try to understand the Ancient Middle Eastern chronology (53). The visual organization provided by the illustrations helps to anchor the events of the text in real places, bringing the feeling of concreteness to the story. Due to our familiarity with the story, this feeling is often abstracted from historical reality. Also, the authors provide a glossary and a list of recommended readings graded by their level of difficulty, making this an excellent place to begin a deeper study of the Word.
The authors set out “to provide an aid to informed worship” (21), a task which Köstenberger and Taylor have completed in admirable fashion. This book is fine contribution to the church: it is suitable for those steeped in Christian heritage and biblical knowledge as well as those who are new to the faith or even on the outside of it. Readers will find themselves using the book as a resource for personal or family devotions, as a resource for local church teaching, and as an easy-to-read gift (for believers or unbelievers) that faithfully witnesses to the gospel.