Monday, January 27, 2014

BookPastor >> "King's Cross" (Tim Keller)

This book is an exposition on the Gospel of Mark. It puts the pivotal point at Mark 8, which marks the beginning of the end of Jesus' ministry on earth. Read how Keller skillfully weaves in the themes of kingdom, the teachings, and the growing emphasis on the cross, culminating in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on Dec 4th, 2011.


TITLE: King's Cross - The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus
AUTHOR: Timothy Keller
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Dutton Press, 2011, (240 pages).

Tim Keller has a gift for words. He has an ability to weave in a keen understanding of Scripture. Backed by word studies in Greek and Hebrew, he brings the nuances of the original gospel contexts alive to the English speaking world. He has a passionate desire to bring God's people closer to Jesus. Brilliantly, he joins the ancient world with contemporary culture, the Hellenistic texts in the light of modern contexts, and holds together the need for relevance without compromising on biblical truths. This book is another example of this masterful teacher and eloquent preacher.

About the Book

Keller chooses the book of Mark to give readers a deeper insight into how Jesus changed the world by entering into the life of the world. The first part of the book deals with Jesus as King. By focusing on the action-packed gospel of Mark, one sees less of Jesus' 'teaching' and more of Jesus' 'doing.' One recognizes Jesus' identity as King over all things (Mark 1-8). In Part Two, Keller points to the need for Jesus to go to the Cross, highlighting the purpose of Jesus' coming (Mark 9-16). This twin focus of identity and purpose constitutes Keller's interpretation of the gospel of Mark. Together, he exhorts us to 'seriously consider the significance' of the life of Jesus in our own lives. Interestingly, Keller calls the Bible as the book that understands us.

The eighteen chapters roughly follows the gospel of Mark. In the 'Dance,' Jesus comes to earth to give us love, inviting us to relationships of love, of what life is all about. He sets an example for us in obeying the call of God the Father even unto death on the cross. In healing people, he shows us that the deeper need is not meeting our perceived needs, but our truest needs: We need God. My favourite chapter is 'The Rest.' Working through the Sabbath passages in Mark, he says that keeping the Sabbath is more than a pause from work, more than mere observance of the Law, more than a mental or physical time off. It is becoming more aware of Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath. He compares two characters in the story 'Chariots of Fire.'
"Harold Adams was weary even when he rested, and Eric Liddell was rested even when he was exerting himself. Why? Because there's a work underneath our work that we really need to rest from. It's the work of self-justification. It's the work that often leads us to take refuge in religion." (43)

"Because the Lord of the Sabbath said, 'It is Finished,' we can rest from religion - forever." (47)
In 'The Power,' Jesus is Lord over all nature, that those who trust in Him will not need to be afraid. At the midpoint of the book, Keller turns to the inevitable: Jesus must die.

Part Two is the way of the Cross. Keller calls Mark 8 as the pivotal chapter because the King is going to the Cross. The glory of life needs to endure the gory of death.  The transfiguration of Christ is a glimpse of the resurrection of Christ. He makes a case for the uniqueness of Jesus when compared to other religions. While Buddhism maintains their center in the Far East, Islam in the Middle East, Christianity has branched outward moving from Jerusalem to Hellenistic centers, to Alexandria, North Africa, Rome, Europe, and the rest of the world. He credits Andrew Wells for observing that Christianity 'is always migrating away from power and wealth' (125). He writes:

"Jesus says, 'My power is always moving away from people who love power and money. My power is always moving toward people who are giving it away, as I did. Where do you want to live?'" (137)

Read this brilliant description of Jesus, that we either have to take Him as He is, or reject Him. We need to decide.

"He is both the rest and the storm, both the victim and the wielder of the flaming sword, and you must accept him or reject him on the basis of both. Either you'll have to kill him or you'll have to crown him. The one thing you can't do is just say, 'What an interesting guy.' " (162)

Of the Communion, Keller says that the Lord's Supper points us to the future with Jesus, a 'small' but 'very real' future (172).  He ends the book by saying that Christ's death is but the beginning of a glorious kingdom to come.

"On the Day of the Lord - the day that God makes everything right, the day that everything sad comes untrue - on that day the same thing will happen to your own hurts and sadness. You will find that the worst things that have ever happened to you will in the end only enhance your eternal delight. On that day, all of it will be turned inside out and you will know joy beyond the walls of the world. The joy of your glory will be that much greater for every scar you bear. So live in the light of the resurrection and renewal of this world, and of yourself, in a glorious, never-ending, joyful dance of grace." (224-5)

Closing Thoughts

Keller has a rare ability to bring ancient texts alive with insights that tantalizes the modern mind. He brings out the message of Mark in a very readable way. I find my heart pulsing with the re-telling of the story of Jesus, Keller-style. Immensely quotable, this book is a treasure house for preachers looking for a few nuggets to cite. It is a resource for Bible teachers on how to communicate ancient truths for contemporary ears. Bible students will like it. Laypersons will love it. One learns not only the Bible but also the art of communicating the Bible. This is certainly worth the price of the book. Some books do a great job in getting people more interested to dig into the Bible more. They make readers hunger for more of Jesus. They create a thirst that longs for the living waters of Christ. This book is one of them.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


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