Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
One of the disciplines I began early in ministry was reading a new book on one of the major doctrines associated with the church year. I previously shared about this discipline as it pertains to Christmas.
Before addressing this topic, it might be helpful to say a word about the church year. Most Evangelicals, pastors and local churches do not follow the church year. They follow much more closely the civil year and acknowledge those days in the church, e.g. Mother’s and Father’s Day, 4th of July, and others, than the days associated with the church year. The exception for many are two of the most important days for all Christians, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, celebrated at Christmas, and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, remembered at Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter.
It is important to acknowledge that there is nothing sacred or inerrant about the church year. A local church is not obligated to follow a church year in that there is no biblical mandate to do so. Many Evangelicals moved away from following the church year because of the negative, ritualistic approach to it. It was rote, empty and meaningless. However, if a local church does not follow the structure of the church year, they will still follow a structure. The question is which one. Misuse and abuse does not necessarily mean one ought to no longer use. It might entail using with the right motives, for the right reasons, to a good end. Regardless of the strengths and weaknesses of following a church year, and there are both, a church year does provide structure to the Christian’s corporate life as the people of God centered around Jesus Christ and the major events around Him.
Now I move back to the season of the church year we are entering: Lent and Easter. In the past I have read many books on the atonement and the resurrection. This year I will be reading the new book written by Andreas Kostenberger and Justin Taylor, The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived (Wheaton; Crossway, 2014).
The book addresses the final week of Jesus’ life leading to the cross (pp. 13-14).
This book covers Jesus’s final days. In these pages you will read the eyewitness accounts of what the most important person who ever lives said and did during the most important week of his life. Sunday through Sunday – from what we now call ‘Palm Sunday’ to ‘Easter Sunday’ – we will put the accounts together in roughly chronological order, letting you read all four records of these events as we seek to explain to the best of our ability what is happening.
The book’s primary focus is on the biblical account of the final week of Jesus’ life, culminating in his crucifixion, burial and resurrection. It does this through attention to historical detail and theological insight, with the ultimate goal being worship of the Lord Jesus Christ (p. 21).
While the primary purpose of this book is not academic – instead, our desire is to provide an aid to informed worship – and we have thus refrained from providing extensive references to the scholarly literature, the discussion is informed by responsible evangelical scholarship. There is a rich tapestry of historical detail, literary artistry, and theological insight to be gleaned from the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s final week, and we have done our best to include all the relevant material and to do so in a way that is informative, intelligible, and interesting to read. . . . It is our prayer that God will see fit to use this volume to bring glory to himself and to the Lord Jesus Christ.
As those who have experienced the new life in Christ, we remember, celebrate and worship the risen, ascended and exalted Lord Jesus Christ and we eagerly await His return. As those who have experienced new birth, we are known as Easter people, a truth that transforms our lives and every day of our lives (p. 203).
Jesus’s ‘final days’ were not the end, however, While his sinless life, substitutionary death, and triumphant resurrection accomplished our salvation, Jesus’s work still continues. After he ascended to heaven and took his place at his Father’s side, he sent the Holy Spirit to empower the church’s gospel witness to the ends of the earth. Even now, he upholds the universe by his powerful word, intercedes for us with the Father, and is preparing a place for us in heaven. At one glorious future day, he will return to take us home with him. He will judge the unbelieving world, and the devil and his demons, and we will live with him in God’s presence for all eternity.
What book are you planning to read this year to accompany the church’s celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, of Good Friday and Easter? I commend The Final Days of Jesus.
UPDATE: If you want to hear from the authors, here is a brief interview.