One of the most edifying books I’ve read (and am still reading) in 2014 has been The Final Days of Jesus. Written by Andreas Köstenberger and Justin Taylor, the book chronicles the final week of Jesus’ life and puts in order all the events of that climactic week. On Wednesday nights I am teaching through the book, and in my own personal devotions I am reading through it.
To help others read through the book, I put together a 40-day reading plan that is now available on-line. The outline lays out daily Scripture from the Gospels, many intertextual connections to the Old Testament, and the page numbers to read from The Final Days of Jesus.
Here is the devotional guide’s introduction. Let it be an invitation to a slow, worshipful reading of the passion narratives in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
It has been said of Mark’s gospel that it is a passion narrative with an extended introduction. The same could be said of all the gospels. In each account, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John introduce Jesus of Nazareth as the long-awaited messiah of Israel. In various ways they display his divine power and human personality. Yet, with each evangelist, the focus of their gospels turn to the final and climactic week of his life, the days leading up to Christ’s execution and his miraculous resurrection from the dead.
Most recently, Andreas Köstenberger and Justin Taylor have provided the church with an orderly account of these final days. Broken down into forty events, they have written an annotated guide to the passion week. This outline depends exclusively on their book The Final Days of Jesus (TFDJ) and commends a forty day devotional that Christians and non-Christians alike can read to better appreciate and understand all that happened in “the most important week of the most important person who ever lived.”
To help you use this devotional reading guide, let me note a few things.
- The forty events of Jesus final week are broken down into forty days of reading. Some days of reading will cover 2 events. Other events will take two or more days to consider (e.g., Jesus teaching in John 13-17).
- With a few exceptions, each New Testament reading should take less than ten minutes and is intended to be useful for personal devotions or family worship.
- The Old Testament passages are citations either quoted in the New Testament passage of the day, or provide pertinent background information about the events taking place (e.g., the New Covenant or Passover).
- Days 1-7 (Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday in the passion week) must be read in your own Bible, with supplementation from TFDJ. The full text of Scripture begins in TFDJ on Day 8 (Wednesday) and continues until the end.
- On Days 1-7, you should select either Matthew’s gospel or Mark’s gospel and supplement your reading with Luke and John. If you have more time, you can read all Scripture passages on the given day, but on Day 7, for instance, that would include four chapters of Scripture.
- Beginning on Day 8, you can continue to read in your own Bible and supplement your reading with TFDJ, or more simply, you can read the assigned pages of TFDJ. By reading TFDJ you can seamlessly weave between Scripture and commentary. If time is short, focus on the New Testament reading.
- Finally, the Old Testament promises are not necessary for reading, but provide illumination for those pastors or parents who may desire to know more of the background to each event. You may also find other Old Testament references by keeping alert to the cross-references in your Bible.
- Three other notes: (1) On Day 2, the predictions of Jesus’ death have been included, though they do not occur in the final week. (2) On Days 33-34, a selection of exilic Psalms have been included to help you feel the sorrow of Israel’s exile and Christ’s death. (3) Be advised: Because John 13-17 in TFDJ are not versified, the starting and ending point on days 11-15 are ambiguous, but not unrecognizable.
- Most importantly, as you read: pray and give praise. Do not simply read these events with an eye to historical scholarship, but a heart that marvels at the sinless Son of God who laid down his life for you. If you do not know Jesus as your personal Savior, ask the Lord to open your eyes to behold the wonder of his law, and even more the gift of his Son.
Martin Kähler, The So-called Historical Jesus and the Historic, Biblical Christ (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1964), 80n11.