True story: I had a book stolen out of the mail the other day. All I received was an empty package with a sticker on it, notifying me that the last post office to handle it had received it in that condition. Somewhere out there, there is a book thief who is working their way through my review copy of Andreas J. Kostenberger and Justin Taylor’s new volume, The Final Days of Jesus: The Last Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived. I’m not too mad about that, though. Thankfully, Justin was kind enough to send another. Also, I’m hopeful the perpetrator in question will repent–maybe when he gets to the part about the thief on the cross next to Jesus.
In any case, I’m kind of glad I hit a delay in receiving my copy. It gave me time to reconsider my approach. Initially, I had planned on reading through it quickly and doing a full review, but the closer we move to the Lenten season, it makes sense to take it up as my yearly Lenten reading. For many of us, Lent is observed by giving something up–by sacrificing some food, activity, etc. in order to prayerfully remind ourselves of the course of Jesus’ life, ministry, and sufferings, as well as prepare for the joy of Easter. That can be a good and holy thing. One other way of celebrating Lent is to take up something–additional prayers, Scripture reading, acts of service, and so forth.
In that spirit, I’ve made it a habit over the last few years to make sure and read through at least one work focusing on Jesus’ life, or atoning work, to prepare myself for Holy Week. After skimming through the intro and the layout of the Kostenberger and Taylor’s work, I’ve decided this will be a perfect choice for my Lenten reading this year. For those of you looking to embrace a similar practice I’d like to encourage you to pick up their work as well.
Why? Well, a few reasons. First, it’s a cleanly laid out book focusing on the last week of Jesus’ ministry and passion, where all of his ministry, both in word and deed, are coming to their revelatory culmination in his death and resurrection. Basically, if you don’t get this week, you don’t get Jesus.
Second, Kostenberger and Taylor have taken every text from the 4 Gospels, arranged them in a harmonious, historically-sensitive manner, and then briefly commented on each of them, bringing out their theological and spiritual significance.
Third, it’s solid work. But that’s unsurprising. Andreas Kostenberger is a noted New Testament research scholar out of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and an expert in the Gospels. Justin Taylor is a careful writer, sharp theological mind, and experienced publisher at Crossway. But don’t take my word for it. Here are just a few endorsements from actual scholars and respected pastors:
“This is a book about the most important person who ever lived during the most crucial week of his life. If you want to get to know the person and teachings of Jesus in the context of an engaging story with practical commentary, this book is for you. It is biblical, personal, and transformational.”
—Darrin Patrick, Pastor, The Journey, St. Louis, Missouri; author, For the City and Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission
“An enlightening and edifying look at the most important week in history. Both those who want to know more about the history and those who long to behold the wonder will find much to love about this great work. One gets the sense that we should proceed through these pages on our knees.”
—J. D. Greear, Lead Pastor, The Summit Church, Durham, North Carolina; author, Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved
“You may be wondering what can be done to make Christ’s last week come alive in ways it hasn’t before. It would help to understand the historical background and cultural script a little better, but you don’t want a big book. It would help, too, if your authors were trustworthy, knowledgeable evangelical scholars who could write clearly for laypeople. Look no further—this is the book for you!”
—Craig L. Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary
“Jesus’s last week shook but also saved the world. From Palm Sunday to Easter morning, each day and encounter were critical. This book leads the reader step by step along Jesus’s route from triumphal entry to the cross and finally to glory. Numerous maps and diagrams shed fresh light on each Gospel’s claims. We are reminded not only of what Christ did but also where his way points us now. An excellent beginning-to-intermediate guide!”
—Robert W. Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary
“Holy Week is arguably the most sacred time of year for Christians. Andreas Köstenberger and Justin Taylor provide a simple yet eloquent survey of the final week of Jesus’s life. They take readers on a pilgrimage through the Gospels and invite us to follow Jesus in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, on to the dark and tragic moments of Golgotha, and through to the glorious and unspeakable joy at the feet of the risen Jesus. In short, this is a wonderful resource for individuals, families, and fellowships to learn more about the Easter story, the greatest story ever told.”
—Michael F. Bird, Lecturer in Theology, Ridley Melbourne College of Mission and Ministry
“A clearly presented overview of the most important week in world history. Brief, helpful comments illuminate the biblical story and bring home its enduring and life-changing message.”
—Douglas J. Moo, Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies, Wheaton College
“The Final Days of Jesus helps believers take note of the historical events leading up to Jesus’s death on the cross. Readers are challenged to see the provocation that Jesus’s message and life represented, leading to his arrest and execution. The book demonstrates that historical facts and Christian worship can and should go hand in hand.”
—Eckhard J. Schnabel, Mary F. Rockefeller Distinguished Professor of New Testament Studies, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; author, Paul the Missionary
So then, if you’re looking to take a focused look at the work of Jesus this Lenten season, I’d suggest you head on over to Amazon and pick yourself up a copy. Maybe get a couple and go through it with some friends at church. It promises to be an edifying work.
Soli Deo Gloria