Why are the life, death and resurrection of Jesus so important? Can the gospel accounts really be trusted as history? What are the cosmic implications of the events we commemorate each year during Holy Week?
Dr. Timothy Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City
Keller, who has written numerous books including the New York Times Bestseller, "The Reason for God," explains that his goal in writing "Jesus the King," (formerly titled "King's Cross"), was to reintroduce many in our culture to a conception of Jesus as not only Savior, but as Sovereign—something he says may pose challenges to our way of thinking.
"It doesn't play well in this country, in this culture, to call Jesus a King," says Keller. "But if you think about it, the implications of grace and forgiveness are that now, I don't belong to myself. Paul says 'You're not your own, you were bought with a price.'...You now belong to someone else...In this culture, people like the idea of forgiveness but they immediately say, 'Well, I can kind of live the way I want.' And 'Jesus the King' gets across the fact that your entire life belongs to Him because of His grace, and I think that's a hard sell in our culture, but it's true."
As John Stonestreet points out, not only do we often underestimate the reach of Jesus' claim over our lives as King, but the scope of the four gospels, themselves, is often overlooked. We tend to think about the "Gospel message" as a call to repentance or justification by faith. But this is merely how we, as objects of redemption, receive the Gospel. It is not the heart of the story. That, says John, lies in the Subject of the redemption, namely Christ Himself, and His work on our behalf. And of course, that's why the four accounts of His life are called "gospels."
"Substitution, Mark chapter 10 verse 45," adds Keller. "'The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and the give His life a ransom for many.' The word 'for' there is the word 'anti,' which means 'in place of.' And so the gospels directly say that Jesus came to do something in our place. He came to die in our place."
In "Jesus the King," Dr. Keller focuses especially on the Gospel of Mark, a book which he believes reveals vital features of the Jesus narrative, and offers us an especially powerful apologetic for the trustworthiness of the New Testament.
"We're coming up on Easter season," says John. "And you know what that means. We know that TIME Magazine and The Discovery Channel and the History Channel...are all going to talk about how we don't know who the real Jesus was, that it's all been clouded by church history."
But, John reminds us, the manner in which the Apostles are portrayed, especially in Mark—the Gospel which tradition tells us St. Peter influenced most strongly—provides outstanding evidence of accuracy.
"[Bishop] N. T. Wright has made something like the same case," agrees Keller. "If you were making these gospels up in order to promote the Church...you wouldn't be making up gospels that made the Apostles look like such idiots...The gospels are just counterproductive for accruing power on the part of the leaders. Another one N. T. Write mentions which I'll point out is that in that culture, women had very, very low status. And yet in Mark and all the other gospels, the first witnesses of the resurrection of Christ are women, at a time in which women were not even allowed to testily in courts, Jewish or Roman. If someone had made that up, they would never have made women the first eyewitnesses. The only reason the women [are recorded] as the first witnesses in the gospels is because they were! There's all sorts of really great evidence that you can take Mark and the other gospels serious as history."