Captivated: Mystery of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”  1 Cor. 15:50–58

In five relatively brief, evangelistic chapters, with each one asking a profound question found in Scripture, Anyabwile helps us reflect more deeply on several key truths revealed in the death and resurrection of Christ.

Synopses by Chapter:

1. “Is There No Other Way?”  In the events just prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, the author discusses what Jesus went through and why in the divine plan of redemption accomplished as seen in the central acts of human history and what God’s ‘No’ means for his glory and our salvation.

“God’s greatest motivation for all His actions is the revelation of His glory in the universe. Everything He does is to show to the creation His own perfect beauty and flawless attributes. This is supremely true with our Lord’s cross. When Jesus asks if there is any other possible way, it is as if He is asking, ‘Is there another way to reveal Your glory more perfectly?’ The answer cloaked in silence is no.”

2. “Why Have You Forsaken Me?”  What is the meaning of the abandonment of Christ in His crucifixion in:  the rejection of society and abandonment by followers, seeming emotional betrayal, especially the hellish suffering as the perfect bond of love in the Trinity seemed broken and forever lost?

“(At) the separation of Father and Son at Calvary, we stare into the deep mystery and meaning of the cross and the resurrection. But the Father’s abandonment of Jesus leads to the sinner’s adoption. God abandons one perfect Son (temporarily) in order to adopt millions of sinful sons. It is the only abandonment with any honor and redemption… We must remember and treasure that Jesus willingly suffered all this so sinners can escape it. Jesus’ abandonment means the sinner’s adoption. He took our place on the cross so we can take His place in the kingdom.”

3. “Where, O Death, Is Your Victory?”  This rhetorical question is meant to cause us to think deeply about the eternal impact of the death of Christ for the believer.  The ugly, hateful fact of physical death is bad enough, but even that fades in the light of the horror of the eternal death of an unbeliever, the second death for which there is no remedy.  The death of death in the death of Christ has forever removed the prospect of that second, eternal death for all those who have received divine mercy and been welcomed into God’s eternal family.

4. “Why Do You Seek the Living among the Dead?”  This is a scriptural question that redirects us from: emotions to Scriptural truths, current events to the providence of God, the cross and death to resurrection, the law to the gospel, and grief to joy.

“Providence teaches us that history is not a blind, aimless march into nothingness and meaninglessness. History is the recorded orchestration of God’s work in redeeming mankind through the cross and resurrection of our Lord…  The resurrection turns us from law-keeping to gospel-believing and from self-righteousness to an alien righteousness in Jesus Christ. It turns us from trying to earn God’s love by our good deeds to freely accepting God’s love as a gift through faith in His Son…  It is our privilege to keep preaching the gospel to ourselves and to one another rather than listening to the condemnation of the law. Every day we get to look deeper and deeper into the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection so that we may live in the riches of God’s grace through Christ. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” reminds us that we live in the completed work of Jesus Christ—sins completely forgiven, atonement completely made, justification completely declared, adoption completely accomplished, and glory completely secured. It is finished!”

5. “Do You Not Know These Things?”  In this chapter, the author gives some helpful insight into spiritual epistemology (how we can know things reliably and on solid authority).  Helpful, but not wholly sufficient sources of knowing are:  our physical senses, raw facts, even Bible study and religious activity.  But there are three things we must genuinely embrace:  that Christ has indeed come in the flesh (vs. any ‘spiritualizing’ of that reality); that Jesus of Nazareth is God’s unique, heaven-sent, eternal, divine Son; and that He is Lord of all creation.

Pros:  Orthodox, believing, generally sound theologically, sticks close to Scripture, insightful, helpful questions at the end of each chapter.

Cons:  Book format is not especially easy to use; at $10 the list price seems high; even though short, can be a bit wordy.

Target Audience:  Believers and those whom God is infallibly calling into His family, i.e., those in both camps who want to learn something more about the two most central acts of God in human history.

Recommendation:  This is a good and helpful book worth reading slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully in light of Scripture.  4 solid stars.

Note:  I received an electronic and hard copy of this book gratis from Reformation Heritage Books (highly recommended) via Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for a review.

See the book at:  Captivated – The Mystery of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

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