There was a time when the definition of an “evangelical” was someone who liked John Stott and Billy Graham. Today, perhaps one could suggest that Don Carson has a similarly defining role, alongside people like John Piper. Certainly Carson’s books are well known and sell widely. He is recognized as a gifted expositor of God’s word and a sought-after conference speaker.
Scandalous is a short book closely based on a series of sermons Carson preached at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. It reads very much like a series of sermons. He chose five passages and exposited them verse by verse. The passages might initially seem like a surprising combination. But the theme underlying each of them is the vital place of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
It is great to see the resurrection given such prominence alongside the cross, even in the title of this book. My own book, “Raised With Christ,” was published in the same month, as well as Lifted by Sam Allberry. Both of these books argue that the resurrection has been neglected in our teaching and in Christian books. It is good, therefore, to see a man like Don Carson turn his gaze to this vital subject. Since Raised With Christ and Lifted are both more thematic, this series of expositions would complement them nicely.
Carson’s exposition of Matthew 27 focuses on the ironies of the cross. How could the King of kings be mocked? How could the one who appeared so powerless in truth be the most powerful being of all? How could the one who seemed unable to save himself save others? How can a cry of apparent despair come from the one who trusts God more than any other man?
He then argues that Romans 3 is the center of the whole Bible, showing clearly, but succinctly, how God can both be just and the one who forgives sinners like you and me. These few pages explain a truth so foundational it could easily be assumed, but has, over the last few years, become once again a subject of intense debate in Christian circles.
Carson then turns to Revelation 12, which he says shows the “strange triumph of a slaughtered lamb.” Christians can overcome rage because of the death of Jesus and because Jesus is now alive and standing at the right hand of God interceding for us.
The story of Jesus raising Lazarus (John 11) shows Jesus’ response to death. Carson shows that it is not wrong to weep and be angry about the effects of this unwelcome intruder into God’s world. Christians are allowed to grieve, just not in the same way that those without hope do. The scandal of Jesus delaying when he heard of Lazarus’ sickness is an example of how God lovingly wants to teach us patience and perseverance through our troubles.
All our hopes stem from the resurrection of Jesus. Carson chooses to focus on a poignant moment for his final exposition. The cynical Thomas encounters the risen Jesus in John 22. There can only be one outcome of such a meeting. Thomas is transformed into the faith-filled declarer that this Jesus who was once just a crucified corpse is now the risen Lord, and to be worshiped as Lord and God.
This little book is a great introduction to Carson himself, to these wonderful passages, and to the glorious truths of the gospel. Like the other books being published this year about the resurrection, Carson’s book will leave you hungry for more. Why not make 2010 the year you begin to come to grips with all the glorious implications of Jesus’ death and resurrection by reading several of these books?