Part exposition, part devotional, SEEING AND SAVORING JESUS CHRIST offers such a thorough, biblically based examination of the person of Jesus Christ that I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a comparable book; think of it as a meditative Bible study minus the superficial fill-in-the-blanks. Piper manages to pack loads of scripture and insight into a slim volume of fewer than 150 pages, and he does so by adhering to his usual standard of excellence.
Arranged topically, the book's 13 chapters cover Jesus' purpose, deity, excellence, joy, power, wisdom, and so forth. (In typical Piper style, he titles a chapter on the desecration of Jesus "The Glorious Poverty of a Bad Reputation." I love it.) Each chapter begins with scriptures or quotations, or both, and ends with a thoughtful prayer that is longer than usual for a devotional type of book. But this book strays from both the usual Bible study format and the usual devotional format, creating a rich hybrid that ministers to the mind and the heart.
All that is to say that this is a book to be read and, well, savored. Despite its brevity, it's not the kind of book you can breeze through if you expect to get much out of it. As an example, the chapter on Jesus' sacrifice, "The Glory of Rescuing Sinners, Not Removing Satan," handles the problem of evil in a convincing and beautiful way. Piper writes: "Christ must have had a very high stake in the ongoing existence of Satan, because, even though he has the right and power to annihilate him now, he defeats him in stages at the cost of his own life." What's the stake? "God wills for his glory to shine forth not only through acts of physical power, but also through acts of moral and spiritual power that display the beauty of his grace with lavish colors," he writes. "To take sinners out of Satan's hands by virtue of Christ's sin-bearing sacrifice and his law-fulfilling obedience to the Father was a more glorious victory than mere annihilation of the enemy."
The main value in Piper's work is the way it will enrich an individual believer's walk with God. But there are two other areas in which the book becomes a valuable resource: as a counterpoint both to the liberals who embrace a view of Jesus akin to the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar and to that segment of evangelicalism that has reduced Jesus to a casual buddy. Neither view does justice to the glory of God, and neither provides a full understanding of the character, mission and glory of Jesus Christ.
Piper probably won't change a whole lot of liberal minds, drawing as he does on scripture as his sole source of information on Jesus. But evangelicals would be wise to use this book as their text for introducing others to Jesus --- and for reacquainting themselves with the one on whom they base their faith.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on June 14, 2004