Recently I sat down with Jonathan Greer and John Hilber to talk about Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament, a recent book they edited with John Walton. We spoke of the need for such a book, how it was put together, and who should read it. Greer, Hilber, and Walton rightly believe that we best understand the meaning of the Old Testament for the world today when we understand the world to which it was originally written.
I’m thankful that the Bible isn’t hagiography, an idealistic, even idolizing way of telling a story in which the heroes and heroines are scrubbed clean of mistakes and weaknesses. Just about any biblical character of note, except Jesus, has both good and bad moments in the scriptural story. Remember how Peter, the church’s foundational rock, quickly becomes a stone of stumbling to Jesus (Matt 16:22-23)? The Bible doesn’t sugarcoat the saints. Why is this?
Lately I’ve been thinking about grace greater than our circumstances, the kind of “sufficient grace” Paul spoke about in 2 Cor 12:9. I don’t want to diminish the amazing grace that saves from sin when someone first believes the gospel, but saving grace is just the beginning. There is also sustaining grace for all the obstacles and afflictions that come our way. The grace that first saves from sin continues to save from pain, fear, weaknesses, and insecurities. We shouldn’t be surprised that Paul speaks about grace greater than our circumstances as well as grace greater than sin. Saving grace doesn’t stop saving once we’re saved.
When I began teaching, I never thought I would write a book on the Gospels and Acts. Back then it was all about Paul.
All too often churches feature the empty tomb only on Easter Sunday, or only during the Eastertide season until Pentecost. Christians commonly present the gospel as the death of Jesus, omitting his resurrection. This reduced, truncated gospel is not the real, triumphant gospel that we find in the New Testament. Perhaps it is not the gospel at all.
Call it what you like—Passion Week, Holy Week, Greater Week, Holy and Great Week—this is the time of year that reminds Christians of the foundation of their faith. It is observed in different ways by various Christian traditions. In this post I’m not concerned with how churches officially remember Christ’s death and resurrection every year but about how Christians personally resemble it every day. Can I explain?