Review: The Glory of the Cross

Each Easter, I try to read a book, or part of a book, on the cross.  This year I confess to feeling a little tired, and so I went for the booklet, The Glory of the Cross by James Philip.  It is based on sermons that Philip gave as minister of Holyrood Abbey Church in Edinburgh and has been published as part of the Didasko Files series from IFES and the Lausanne Movement.

The booklet starts by reviewing the last 24 hours of Jesus' life, with sections on the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane and the Trial.  Philip then looks at some of the theological significance of the cross: the Just for the Unjust, Justification and Sacrifice (including penal substitution) and Redemption.  In the final section, The Glory of the Cross, he looks at the cross and evangelism and returns to the gospel accounts to look at Calvary.

The content is solidly evangelical, engaging and easy to read.  Philip covers a lot of important material in a relatively short space and he has the preacher's eye for using a good illustration or hymn lyric to engage the reader and help our understanding, e.g. his page on the desire within us to repair the past has three excellent illustrations from the last 1000 years of history (Persian poet Omar Khayya'm, Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth and Ian McEwan's Atonement) which beautifully lead us to the comfort of the gospel.

Throughout the booklet, there are boxed asides, e.g. on Christ's cry of dereliction from the cross and penal substitution, dealing with particular issues succinctly (there is also a further reading list at the end).

All in all, this was a good little book to reflect on over Easter, to take me back to the heart of the cross and focus my faith on it again.  For Christians who would struggle to read a longer introductory book (like Mark Meynell's Cross Examined) this would be a good place to start.

It's virtue is, of course, also it's weakness.  35 small pages will only give you a taste of the riches of the cross.  Occasionally the compression led to a lack of clarity, for example, on the cry of dereliction Philip writes: "there could be no answer from God; for that is what hell means."  I know what he means, but that doesn't really do justice to hell in the Bible.  Sometimes I couldn't quite see how sections linked together, which may also have been due to the compression, or just my tiredness!

However, anything that so effectively focuses the reader on the cross of Jesus as represented in the Bible is a great resource.  Why not try it next Easter, or earlier?

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