November 30, 2019

Is Focusing on the Crucifixion Really Necessary for the Modern Christian?

This tiny book—92 pages in all—was shoved into my hands at a minister’s conference in Scotland by a publishing friend (ooh get me with publishing friends). I put it in my bag, went home, and dropped it on my ever-growing pile of books for review.

A few weeks later, I went on holiday and it got shoved in with a couple of other larger reads as a sort of last-minute afterthought. Like, you care right? Just get on with the review. I’m just trying to build a picture to create context but, OK, I’ll get on with it.

God’s Goodness at the Cross

Is the crucifixion true? Why is it true? How can it be true? This is the premise behind this little fella. Ryken seeks to answer these three questions, and others, in seven dinky little chapters.

For Ryken, the cross proves the goodness of God and describes it as being at once the most evil act in history and yet the best thing to happen to our world. He reminds us that if God can bring good out of the most evil act ever perpetrated, “then he can bring good out of what seems to be evil in our own lives.” (22)

What I like about this book is that it is unashamedly about the crucifixion (unsurprising given the title). It’s like opening a Birthday card, slightly disappointed that no money drops out, but then finding a nice little cheque in the envelope. It’s quite literally a ‘bloody’ good read. This is important because we inhabit a world that rejects the bloody horror of the cross, and we live in times when many ‘Christians’ are embarrassed by the bloody centre piece of our faith. Ryken reminds us that it was always so.

The cross was foolishness to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews. In a world looking for sophisticated philosophical reasoning, it’s nice to remember that all we really have to offer is a God-man dying on a tree. Indeed, that’s all we really need. While it may fly in the face of man’s (so-called) wisdom, it is actually the power of God to salvation. There is no other power. Full stop.

We are reminded that if the cross does not have the power to save, then it is useless. Despite the fact that the crucifixion appears both ridiculous and disgusting to the world, it is actually the site of God’s greatest achievement as he triumphs over his enemies, making a public spectacle of them. This triumph, says Ryken, can be our triumph if we will trust in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.

Focus on the Cross

This is why Christians should continue with their obsession with the crucifixion of Jesus. It should fill our sight as we recognise how sin is nailed to death there. It no longer holds the believer in its death grip. What else can we do but sing to God’s glory as we contemplate the great and terrible crucifixion of Jesus and the great, eternal benefit it brings to those of us who cling to Jesus in repentance and faith?

Some of the illustrations might be a little old school but, like a pot of stew with just a smidgeon of chilli, this little guy will warm your innards on a cold day.

Worth a tickle.

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