Have you ever heard someone say, “The more I learn about God, the more I realize I know nothing about God?” No matter how much I hear this type of sentiment from older, wiser brothers and sisters in Christ, somehow I am still amazed when a portion of Scripture is illuminated in a new and profound way to me. It baffles my mind how gifted teachers and expounders of the Word can be used by God to reveal its treasures time and time again. This is the blessing given to us in the living and active Word of God expounded by faithful men through the power of the Holy Spirit.
These were thoughts that continually rang through my head as I devoured D.A. Carson’s book Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. Carson is definitely one of my favorite modern exegetes and this book lived up to my high expectations.
The book is comprised of five separate sections that can easily stand alone and only briefly reference one another from time to time. Originally these five sections were five addresses given at a Resurgence conference in 2008 where Carson was able to “unpack what some of the earliest witnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection wrote” and to explain “what these events [Christ’s death and resurrection] mean.” Here are brief summaries of each section as well as some of my favorite quotes:
1.) The Ironies of the Cross (Matthew 27:27-51)
Carson examines how the man who is mocked as king is king, how the man who is utterly powerless is powerful, how the man who can’t save himself saves others, and lastly, how the man who cries out in despair trusts God. Basically in this section we learn more about the Savior who humbled himself by sacrificing his own rights (and indeed, his own life) so that others could gain what they are not entitled to–eternal life.
Moreover, Christians today will understand that biblically authentic Christianity is never merely a matter of rules and regulations, of public liturgy and private morality. Biblical Christianity results in transformed men and women–men and women who, because of the power of the Spirit of God, enjoy regenerated natures.
2.) The Center of the Whole Bible (Romans 3:21-26)
This section focuses on the powerful exchange made at the cross of Christ. It is a beautiful explanation of key doctrines of the Christian faith like redemption and propitiation. We are reminded of the glorious beauty of Christ’s substitutionary death on our behalf and how God’s perfect judgement and love are both revealed through it.
This marks the fundamental difference between pagan propitiation and Christian propitiation. In pagan propitiation, a human being offers a propitiatory sacrifice to make a god propitious. In Christian propitiation, God the Father sets forth Jesus as the propitiation to make himself propitious; God is both the subject and the object of propitiation. God is the one who provides the sacrifice precisely as a way of turning aside his own wrath. God the Father is thus the propitiator and the propitiated and God the son is the propitiation.
3.) The Strange Triumph of a Slaughtered Lamb (Revelation 12)
This intriguing section deals with the rage of Satan against the people of God. Having been situationally defeated at the victory of Christ through the cross, Satan rages agains the only ones he can get to, the body of Christ (the church). Yet, this enemy’s eminent demise is sure our triumph over him is certain thanks to the shed blood of Christ.
Satan is full of rage not because he is so spectacularly strong, but because he knows that he is defeated, his end is in sight, the range of his operations is curtailed–and he is furious. He knows that in principle he is already undone.
4.) A Miracle Full of Surprises (John 11:1-53)
Here we are reunited with Mary and Martha and the account of Christ raising Lazarus from the grave. Carson instructs us on Jesus’ abhorrence of death and sin and encourages our souls with an example of Christ’s authority over life and death.
This sovereign Lord, so utterly powerful, so amazingly surprising, is personally engaged in the redemption of his broken, rebellious, image bearers.
5.) Doubting the Resurrection of Jesus (John 20:24-31)
In this last section, we have our faith emboldened by the historical facts proving that Christ indeed rose from the dead conquering death itself. We, with Thomas, are asked to come see his hands and feet, to feel his punctured side and know that he was and is indeed Lord.
But these are written [miraculous signs], the ones in John’s Gospel, including the appearance to Thomas, in order that later generations who will never see the signs, who will not in this life see the resurrected body of Jesus, might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing they might have life through his name.
Each of these sections were enlightening and encouraging in their own right. They are perfectly suited to be read in one sitting and particularly handy for moms of little ones to get in some good theology in a short period of time. I highly recommend this book to you and know that you will be blessed by the rich exegesis found in its pages.