“Socrates in the prison cell in Athens, according to Plato’s account, took his cup of hemlock “without trembling or changing colour or expression”. He then “raised the cup to his lips, and very cheerfully and quietly drained it”. When his friends burst into tears, he rebuked them for their “absurd” behaviour and urged them to “keep quiet and be brave”. He died without fear, sorrow or protest. So was Socrates braver than Jesus? Or were their cups filled with different poisons?”
A modern classic, The Cross of Christ masterfully upholds and explores the gravitas of the crucifixion. Stott, with care and precision, explains what Jesus’s death on the cross achieved and what it means. As many of us are lax with specifics when it comes to our theology, this could not be more welcome.
The Cross of Christ is (surprisingly?) very emotionally engaging and incredibly well-written. Joy welled up in me as Stott presents in detail the weight of what our Saviour accomplished at Calvary. His writing oozes with well-read intelligence and brilliantly helpful historical insight, but never to show how clever he is. His gorgeous prose showcases how to write technical content in an accessible manner, elevating it above Pierced for our Transgressions. It is not dry. Stott is also consistently gracious to those he disagrees with, and fascinatingly interlaces much of what he writes with social justice applications.
Everything written so far addresses the first three sections of The Cross of Christ. These are masterful, but, and I say this hesitantly, the fourth and final part could almost be described as lacklustre. It is somewhat sprawling and less focused as Stott laudably discusses some practical thoughts as to how the Christian should live “under the cross”. It is easy to feel lost and forget where he is going.
I often wonder about the timeliness of books. The Cross of Christ is revered as the Christian book by many, and yet it did not quite have as much punch as I expected. Books are incredibly time-relative. For example, I read much of The Cross of Christ immediately after the aforementioned Pierced for our Transgressions, and so I expect that this will have heavily influenced my reading of, and reviewing of, this book. I do not think that this is a problem, but the more books that I read and discuss with others, the more I see that God uses different books for different people at different times to different degrees.
Maybe that is why I did not find The Cross of Christ to be quite as good as anticipated.