On Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God

Resurrection Sunday! The greatest of days! I don’t know why, but Resurrection Sunday has always been a beautiful day, complete with birds chirping in the air, wherever I am.

TimKellerKingsCrossAfter finishing Timothy Keller‘s Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (JTK) (formerly King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus) on Good Friday, and having already found his earlier book, The Reason for God (TRFG), simply amazing, I now have to add Keller to my list of favorite authors!

JTK is Keller’s commentary on the Gospel of Mark, which he divides into two parts: Chapters 1-8, where Mark the Evangelist shows through events in Jesus’ life as well as Jesus’ words and deeds, that Jesus is King; and Chapters 9-16, where Mark shows that Jesus is The-King-Who-Goes-To-The-Cross-For-Us. This division instantly reminded me of Revelation 4 and 5 and of how I have worshipped God every morning since 2012: first as my Creator (Revelation 4:11) then as my Redeemer (Revelation 5:9-10).

There are so many things that I liked about the book, but since this is a blog and not a paper 🙂 here are just a few of them:

1. The focus on the Triune God, whom Keller showed that Mark was very careful to reveal as being present at the start of redemption (Mark 1:9-11) as well as creation (Genesis 1:1-3).

TheReasonForGodI think that it was while reading Keller’s TRFG a couple of years ago that I first fell in love with the Holy Trinity. Previously I sort of viewed God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit separately; but since TRFG, I have tended to speak of them as a community, which in turn convinced me that God is, indeed, LOVE (1 John 4:8), not that God has love but God is LOVE. As Keller says in JTK:

If a unipersonal God had created the world and its inhabitants, such a God would not in his essence be love. Power and greatness possibly, but not love. But if from all eternity, without end and without beginning, ultimate reality is a community of persons knowing and loving one another, then ultimate reality is about love relationships. (p. 10)

2. Keller’s portrayal of Jesus as having done all he asked others to do. For instance, when he asked Peter and John to leave their fathers to follow him, he had already left his Father’s throne in heaven. When he asked the rich young man to give up his wealth, he knew that he, too, would give up his own cosmic wealth (which, in the currency of God’s Kingdom, would be nothing less than God’s loving presence, which he enjoyed even before time began, but which he would lose on the cross of Calvary, but of course get back at his Resurrection – which Christians all over the world celebrate today!)

3. Keller’s fresh translation of the words of Jesus or of those speaking to him. For example, Jesus could be viewed as saying to Jairus and to the disciples who were present in Mark 5:36:

Remember how when I calmed the storm I showed you that my grace and love are compatible with going through storms, though you may not think so? Well, now I’m telling you that my grace and love are compatible with what seem to you to be unconscionable delays. (p. 68)

And with exquisite tenderness to Jairus already dead little daughter (Mark 5:31):

Honey, it’s time to get up. (p. 73)

To the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7:24-30, whose little daughter was demon-possessed:

You know how families eat: First the children eat at the table, and afterward their puppies eat too. It is not right to violate that order. The puppies must not eat from the table before the children do… Please understand, there’s an order here. I’m going to Israel first, then the other nations later. (p. 95)

And her response:

Okay, I understand. I am not from Israel, I do not worship the God that the Israelites worship. Therefore, I don’t have a place a the table. I accept that… but there’s more than enough on that table for everyone in the world, and I need mine now. (p. 95)

And Jesus’ response before he delivers her daughter:

Such an answer! (p. 96)

4. The focus on the love of God. Keller ends almost every chapter with an invitation for the reader to surrender to God’s love. For example, at the end of the chapter on Jesus’ baptism:

He has gone before you into the heart of a very real battle, to draw you into the ultimate reality of the dance. What he has enjoyed from all eternity, he has come to offer to you. And sometimes, when you’re in the deepest part of the battle, when you’re tempted and hurt and weak, you’ll hear in the depths of your being the same words Jesus heard: “This is my beloved child – you are my beloved child, whom I love, with you I’m well pleased.” (p. 14)

I remember how, many years ago, I thought it impossible for God to tell me that.

Then at the end of the chapter on Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane, when he “began to experience…merely a foretase of [the spiritual, cosmic, infinite disintegration that would happen when he became separated from the Father on the cross], and he staggered”:

That love – whose obedience is wide and long and high and deep enough to dissolve a mountain of rightful wrath – is the love you’ve been looking for all your life. No family love, no friend love, no mother love, no spousal love, no romantic love – nothing could possibly satisfy you like that. All those other kinds of loves will let you down; this one never will. (p. 199)

And finally, on the very last page:

It can be your story as well . God made you to love him supremely, but he lost you. He returned to get you back, but it took the cross to do it. He absorbed your darkness so that one day you can finally and dazzlingly become your true self and take your seat at his eternal feast. (252)

May Tim Keller live a long and satisfied life of loving God and loving and teaching God’s people!

Happy Resurrection Sunday!

(Many thanks to Ada Pablo for introducing me to Timothy Keller’s writings through The Reason for God.)

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