Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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The Characters of Easter: The Villains, Heroes, Cowards, and Crooks Who Witnessed History’s Biggest Miracle by Daniel Darling. Moody Publishers. 208 pages. 2021

Daniel Darling follows up his popular The Characters of Christmas book (see my review of that book here), with a similar book about the characters of Easter. The book is easy to read and engaging, but don’t mistake that for this being a simple book that you will not learn from. Darling offers much information about the history of the period and the background of the characters that you might not have previously been aware of. Like the previous book, I read and discussed this one with a group of men I’ve been meeting with to read and discuss books for many years now. Also like the previous book, this book includes study questions at the end of each chapter, along with suggested hymns and songs related to the chapter that are helpful whether you are reading the book individually or with a group.
The author tells us that Jesus took upon Himself your sins so you could enjoy intimacy with your Father, and that Easter means those who are in Christ will be made alive, spiritually and physically. By looking at unlikely disciples, unprepared civil authorities, and unscrupulous religious leaders in this book, we can learn more about the setting in which Jesus lived and died, and we will gain a great love for God’s long and sure plan of salvation and rescue.
I highly recommend this book to you. Below, I’ve provided two takeaways from each of the chapters of the book:

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEW ~ More of this review…
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper

The Failure: Peter

  • Peter may have abandoned Jesus in Jesus’ hour of need, but Jesus would not abandon Peter in his hour of need.
  • Christ is still seeking out fishers of men, the kind of leaders who walk with a limp. Here we see God’s unmatched, one-way love. We fail Him, but He doesn’t fail us. We forget Him, but He doesn’t forget us. We pursue other loves, but He is faithful.

The Beloved: John

  • Today we like to be near Jesus, to take notes as He teaches and marvel at His miracles, but we’d rather He leave us with our nets and our safe way of life. We like a Jesus who forms Himself around our comforts. But following Him is costly.
  • I think it was in the Upper Room where John began to shed his worldly ambitions. A Son of Thunder may have entered that rented space, but a new Apostle emerged.

The Betrayer: Judas

  • And this, I’m afraid, is the situation for many who celebrate Easter this and every year. A familiarity with the language, dressing up for the occasion, even brought to tears by Jesus’ death and resurrection. But never able to call Jesus “Lord.”
  • This Easter, it’s helpful for us to remember that we are like Judas in that we too have betrayed Jesus, time and time again. We’ve sold Him out for lesser idols. But we don’t have to suffer Judas’s fate. If we confess our sins, He’s faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

The Rogue: Barabbas

  • If we cringe at this guilty man going free, we have to cringe at ourselves, who were just as guilty before God. The Bible tells us that every single member of the human race is Barabbas.
  • Jesus died the death Barabbas should have died, paid the penalty for sin we should have paid but could not bear, and in exchange offers us freedom—freedom from sin and reconciliation with the Creator who made us.

The Powerless: Pilate

  • Deep in Pilate’s heart and in every heart is a longing to understand the meaning of life, to know and be known by the One who declares Himself the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
  • This Easter, as you contemplate the tragic and mysterious life of Pilate, ask yourself these questions: Will you humble yourself before the King of kings? Will you look up at this bloodied Galilean and see your Savior? Will you look in on this empty tomb and understand that God is renewing and restoring all things?

The Doubter: Thomas

  • “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) This is the meaning of Easter. There is not a path or a principle. There is only a Person. Jesus is the way. Jesus is the truth. Jesus is the life. He didn’t merely point to the truth.
  • Jesus is beckoning doubters to come and see, to look at the facts of His resurrection and His proof of His deity, but more importantly to answer His summons to hope and joy and forgiveness and grace.

The Religious: The Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees

  • The scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees all opposed Jesus, but for different reasons.
  • In a sense, we all put Jesus on the cross, because each of us, across every ethnic group and social class, stands condemned before a holy God. Nobody has clean hands at Easter.

The Witnesses: The Women at the Tomb

  • Jesus takes the desperate, the afflicted, the enslaved, and transforms them into witnesses of His glory.
  • So even though today, by modern standards of scholarship, the witness of these many women in seeing Jesus dying on the cross, buried, and then risen is a hard-to-refute piece of evidence for the reliability of the gospels and the historicity of the resurrection, the fact that women’s testimony was not received in the first century is also another piece of evidence.

The Secret Disciples: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea

  • We can’t imagine the wrestling in their souls as they straddled their identity as proud Pharisees and the tug of the Spirit on their heart as they investigated the claims of Jesus.
  • The inclusion of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea in the Easter story shows us how God works in mysterious ways to accomplish His purposes in the world and the gospel’s power to work in the most surprising places.

The Executioners: Who Were the Romans?

  • The gospel, Jesus is telling the people of Israel, is not just for Israel, but for the whole world. What’s more, we will be surprised who we see around the table in the kingdom of God.
  • God finds faith where we least expect it. Those who seem so far from God—those we have been trained to hate and despise—may have more faith than those of us who think we are close to God.

  • R.C. Sproul’s Legacy: Theology Is for Everyday Believers. Nathan A. Finn reviews Stephen Nichols excellent new biography R.C. Sproul: A Life. Finn writes “My prayer is that Nichols’s wonderful biography will introduce Sproul and Ligonier to a new generation of everyday believers—and lots of pastors and seminaries, too. We need his vision and his voice now more than ever before.”
  • 10 Things You Should Know About R.C. Sproul. Stephen Nichols, author of C. Sproul: A Life, shares these ten things about R.C.
  • Discovering the Holiness of God: The Formation of R. C. Sproul. In this 14-minute documentary, learn about R. C. Sproul’s zealous love for Christ and how it left a lasting legacy for the gospel.
  • The Life and Legacy of R. C. Sproul with Stephen Nichols. On this episode of the Crossway Podcast, Matt Tully and Stephen Nichols discuss the fascinating life and ministry of the late R. C. Sproul.
  • The Root of Beautiful Patience. John Piper’s new book is about the precious doctrine of God’s providence. On the Ask Pastor John podcast he is looking at a few of ten implications. On this episode he looks at implication number five. Here is a new interview about the book with John Piper and Joe Rigney, who serves as professor of theology and literature and the president-elect of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
  • Tim Keller’s Call to Action. Chris Brauns reviews Tim Keller’s new booklet How to Reach the West Again. He writes Keller argues that our late-modern moment requires a new strategy for missions. This isn’t a resource to be skimmed and filed. It’s a call to action.”
  • The Hope That Sustained Tim Keller Through 2020. Matt McCullough reviews Tim Keller’s new book Hope in a Time of Fear: The Lesson of Resurrection and the True Meaning of Easter. He calls the book “a precious gift, yet another Great Reversal, through which God brings from deep suffering the life-giving hope we so desperately need, now and always.”
  • The Rise & Fall of the Modern Self. On this episode of the White Horse Inn podcast, Shane Rosenthal visits with Carl Trueman about his acclaimed new book The Rise & Triumph of the Modern Self.
  • 25 Great Novelists Who Affirm Faith. Terry Glaspey writes “As you read through my picks, please understand I am not arguing these are the very best I’m only doing what the title suggests—list 25 novelists who are worth your time and exploration. I hope some of these will be new to you and spark a fruitful journey into theologically rich literature.”
  • The Book Amazon Does Not Want You to Read. Justin Taylor writes “You may have heard by now that Amazon has banned from all of their sales channels Ryan T. Anderson’s excellent book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.”

BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?

Providence BOOK CLUB

The providence of God is his purposeful sovereignty by which he will be completely successful in the achievement of his ultimate goal for the universe. God’s providence carries his plans into action, guides all things toward his ultimate goal, and leads to the final consummation.
John Piper draws on a lifetime of theological reflection, biblical study, and practical ministry to lead readers on a stunning tour of the sightings of God’s providence—from Genesis to Revelation—to discover the all-encompassing reality of God’s purposeful sovereignty over all of creation and all of history.
Exploring the goal, nature, and extent of God’s purposes for the world, Piper offers an invitation to know the God who holds all things in his hands yet remains intimately involved in the lives of his people.
Watch this six-minute video as John Piper talks about the book, and this interview with Dr. Joe Rigney of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
Below are a few takeaways from Chapter 2 – Is Divine Self-Exaltation Good News?

  • What if, in the end, we discovered that the beauty of God turns out to be the kind that comes to climax in being shared? And what if the attitude we thought was mere self-promotion was instead the pursuit of sharing the greatest pleasure possible for all who would have it?
  • It will become increasingly clear why God’s aim to communicate his glory is not at odds with his aim to make us fully and eternally happy.
  • God’s glory is not any one of his perfections but the beauty of all of them, and the perfectly harmonious way they relate to each other, and the way they are expressed in creation and history.

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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