Over the last couple of years, I saw the book Come Thou Long Expected Jesus mentioned on several blogs. It was compiled by Nancy Guthrie and included excerpts from the writings and sermons of godly Christians through the ages. I read and enjoyed it very much last Christmastime, and then when I saw Nancy had put together a similar book for Easter, Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter I got it to read this Easter season.
The preface says:
Oh, what we miss out on when we rush past the cross of Christ.Oh, the richness and reward when stop to linger before it, when we take the time to “consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself” (Hebrews 12:3). In a culture where crosses have become commonplace as architecture and jewelry, how we need to truly gaze upon the cross of Christ in all its ugliness and beauty, in its death and in its healing, in the painful price paid there, and in its free gift of grace. Jesus, keep us near the cross.
And that is just what the book endeavors to help us do. Each of the twenty-five chapters is an excerpt from a book or sermon from various, mostly well-known Christians throughout the ages, from Augustine, Luther, Edwards, and Spurgeon all the way to John Piper, John MacArthur, J. I. Packer, and others. There were a handful of names I did not recognize, so please don’t count this as an endorsement of everything ever written or said by every author, but for the most part I agreed with everything in this book.
The chapters all deal with Christ’s death and resurrection, some in general, some on a particular aspect, such as C. J. Mahaney’s chapter on “The Cup,” exactly what was meant, what cup Christ was talking about when he said, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt’ (Matthew 26:39), or an exploration of some of the things Christ said from the cross, or J. I. Packer’s treatment of what was meant in Christ’s descent into hell and ascension into heaven. Just yesterday I found here a list of all the chapters and authors with a quote from each chapter, but today that link brings up a window about exceeded bandwidth: hopefully that will be rectified soon. Each chapter is 3-5 pages long, and it was very manageable to read one a day. I wouldn’t recommend reading more than that at a time: just soaking on one chapter and thinking over it through the day is rich meditation.
All the chapters did not resonate with me equally, but that may have been due to sleepiness or distraction on my part on given mornings. Probably my favorites were C. J. Mahaney’s on “The Cup,” C. H. Spurgeon’s “Then They Did Spit Upon His Face,” and Raymond Ortlund’s on “The Most Important Word in the Universe.” I shared several quotes from the last one yesterday, but two that impacted me were:
In human religions, it’s the worshipper who placates the offended deity with rituals and sacrifices and bribes. But in the gospel, it is God Himself who provides the offering.
The God you have offended doesn’t demand your blood; he gives his own in Jesus Christ.
Overall the book did fulfill it’s purpose set out in the preface: it did cause me to slow down and meditate on what Christ did for me, to appreciate it anew, to revive my love for Him and thankfulness to Him. I plan to make this book a regular part of my Easter preparations in the coming years, but of course the topic is not confined to Easter: this book will help you contemplate the cross and what it means for you any day of the year.