Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book Review: Final Words by Adam Hamilton

Even though Easter has come and gone, the life and words of Christ still have relevance and are worth meditating on. My wife and I spent the Lenten weeks leading up to Easter this year reading various literature to prepare our hearts and minds, and agreed to make this an annual tradition. It turns out that Christian Audio offered this book for review, so I decided to give it a listen. It turned out to be a good read that definitely enriched my Lenten preparations.

Final Words is a fairly short book that breaks down the last seven sayings of Jesus into individual chapters that focuses on the meaning and application of each one. It's an easy read and you could feel the author's heart throughout each chapter. Here's the chapter breakdown with the corresponding saying:

  1. "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing."
  2. "Today you will be with me in paradise."
  3. "Woman, behold your son; behold your mother!"
  4. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
  5. "I thirst."
  6. "It is finished" and "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."
  7. Jesus' actual final words (post-resurrection)

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Most of the chapters painted the scene from the Gospels from a particular perspective. For example, chapter two was imagined from the perspective of the thief on the cross to whom Jesus spoke His words. I found this to be helpful to consider yet at the same time slightly dangerous as Hamilton was clearly adding personality and interpretation to the text. Read with this caution, Hamilton does a good job of making each scene come alive and brings depth of meaning to each of Jesus' final sayings.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:
"Never have humans beings every done anything so dark as to condemn, torture, and then crucify the Son of God and yet Jesus prayed for them even as they were in the midst of their sin asking that they might receive mercy. If mercy was available to them, and it was, then I promise you it is available to you" (from Chapter 1).
"Do people who do not know Jesus Christ feel comfortable around you? Do they feel small or valued and accepted after they have had a conversation with you? Are you willing to associate with people others would consider riffraff, and would you show them kindness and compassion because that's what it means to be a follower of Jesus? Do they feel comfortable in your church?" (from Chapter 2). 
He completed His task victoriously and submitted His life and will to the Father. As a result, the veil of the temple was torn in two - "from this time on, there no longer would be a need for the curtain. Through Jesus, human beings would come directly to God's mercy seat - to the cross to ask for mercy and to receive God's grace" (from Chapter 6).
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Unfortunately, there were a couple of weaker chapters. Chapter 3 represented Jesus' words to his mother and to the Apostle John, but Hamilton's text strayed too far from this to have much impact. Although he addressed the importance and role of women in Jesus' ministry, it felt like a far stretch to connect with Jesus' words. Chapter 7 briefly mentioned Jesus' real final words in His resurrected body, but not enough attention was given to their meaning or application. I give the author a pass on this chapter, though, because technically they weren't Jesus' words before glorification to heaven.

Overall, this was a solid book to read once. However, I don't think there's enough density for it to be one that's essential for your bookshelf or even to be read annually. My favorite Easter season read would easily be The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy. I read it to my wife this year and found it deeply contemplative and emotionally powerful; this will definitely be our new tradition.

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