From the Blog
Join with the Songtime family each week as we pray together for the hand of God in our Life.
This excerpt was taken from Erwin Lutzer's "Covering your Life in Prayer"
|A Prayer for Assurance|
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”—Romans 8:14-17
God has given us many benefits through faith in Christ. Among them is the gift of the Holy Spirit who leads us, even though at times we may be unaware of it; He also ministers to our human spirit, giving us the assurance that we belong to God.
As Resurrection Sunday nears, many believers will find themselves reading the gospels concerning Jesus’ last days on earth in conjunction with the Church’s celebration of that holy day when Christ rose victorious from the grave. Each gospel writer gives us some part of the story of those final moments, from Christ’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, to his trial, to the cross, and finally, gloriously, the empty tomb. How intriguing it is that among the four gospels there is some variance about what exactly occurred and when. In the past few centuries, this variance has been used broadly as a weapon against the Church by unbelievers in an attempt to disprove the validity of the Bible by claiming these variations are contradictions and errors. How can Christianity be true if the primary source document of the Faith, indeed the inspired Word of God, shows disagreement and inconsistencies among its very own writers?
It is this very question that the writers of The Final Days of Jesus thoroughly address throughout this wonderfully helpful itinerary surrounding the story of the Cross. Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor along with illustrator Alexander Stewart have taken the four gospel writers’ accounts and assembled them in mostly chronological order, placing each author’s retelling of the events of those last days together in a single volume so as to get a bigger picture of the events and their meanings on those who witnessed the death of Christ. It is quite handy to have, in several cases, each of the four writers’ telling of the same single event on one page, allowing us to see the differences in emphasis of each writer’s own perspective. The book is formatted with headings for each day, followed by the Scripture passages from each gospel author about the events of that day, followed by a short commentary on the meaning of the incidents of that day. From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, we can see the story of the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry unfold as a coherent whole, culminating in His ultimate intention: to be the sacrificial Lamb who endures the Cross to save the people of God.
As one who has read this story from these four gospel accounts many, many times, it did not occur to me that circumstances of each day when gathered together would form a narrative that feels both dramatic and expected, intense and yet assuringly understood. For we know how the story ends, of course, and that the knowledge of these events did not surprise our Lord. The apostles who wrote these accounts, themselves eyewitnesses of the very events are also writing with a full understanding of what Christ accomplished, though in hindsight, as they did not know everything Christ meant about his coming and his greater plan at the time of the event itself. Just having the four gospel authors’ words together, with the benefit of the commentary, surrounding details and cultural references from Köstenberger and Taylor makes the reality of the Gospelall the more stirring.
The authors take care the emphasize this reality in regards to the events that unfold during the last days of Jesus’ ministry. They consistently point back to the historical relevance that the four accounts have, namely, the unquestionably strong body evidence of four different accounts telling the same story with such precision and accuracy, particularly considering the emotional nature of the event taking place. Again and again, Köstenberger and Taylor show that while all four Gospels do not contain the exact same pieces of information, they all tell the same story, simply from different perspectives. It is clear while reading the accounts together that the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) follow the action in the most similar fashion, but even their differences reveal the unique angle that each author establishes. Köstenberger and Taylor also argue that while the differences between accounts are often used by critics as proof of inconsistency and error, the differences actually reveal something that is even more wonderful for Bible believing Christians: proof of the apostles writing what each one saw and heard, like good historians, rather than collaborating like men who wished to propagate a false gospel. Even in cases where there seems to be some digression from consistency between the gospel writers, Köstenberger and Taylor provide possible explanations for the differences, reminding us that variance and contradiction are not the same thing.
Naturally, without exact dates from each gospel, the timeline that the authors of The Final Days of Jesus establish may be inaccurate, though they don’t claim that the timeline itself should be taken as part of the gospel accounts. The timeline is merely meant to exist as a frame to show how such events could have played out given the expressions of the general passage of time allotted by the original authors as they described the events. Framing Jesus’ last days in this way further harmonizes for us the four gospel accounts into one whole Gospel, which is the very same way the early church viewed the four accounts.
The Final Days of Jesus also contains various maps and illustrations based on archaeological and historical evidence as well as some re-creations of what Jerusalem might have looked like in AD 33. The context of the period is highly important for modern readers to take into account, as the historicity of the events serves as a means to demystify the elements of Easter Sunday that modern day Christianity has unwittingly accepted. In turn, this demystification shows the first four books of the New Testament for what they are: testaments. Real men writing tangible accounts of a supernatural occurrence. By the conclusion of The Last Days of Jesus, the story of the Cross is further etched upon our minds as historical, provable and ever more marvelous.