The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived

February 28, 2014

Our faith stands on the shoulders of one person: Jesus Christ. Many of us, however, have never studied what it was like for our Savior to walk out his final days on earth. Justin Taylor, PhD candidate at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and vice president of book publishing and an associate publisher at Crossway, wrote a book to help us understand those final days.

The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived can be used as a devotional, in small groups, or for general equipping. It is also designed to be read during Lent which begins on March 5.

I corresponded with Taylor to learn more about his book.

The Final Days of Jesus was co-written with Dr. Andreas J. Köstenberger? What led you to collaborate?

Several years ago I decided to post on my blog the complete ESV text for each day of Holy Week. So, for example, on Palm Sunday I’d post, “What Happened on Sunday?” and then include all of the biblical text—so on and so forth throughout the whole week. I did that for a couple of years, and began to hear from readers who found it to be a helpful tool during Lent and Easter. One friend suggested it might even work as a book. So after thinking and praying about it, I decided to get in touch with Dr. Köstenberger, an expert on the Gospel of John in particular and on the New Testament in general. He’s an outstanding biblical scholar, as well as a friend. I knew he would bring to the project a great deal of wisdom and expertise, as well as a passion to serve the church.

Why is it important that we follow or understand the timeline for Jesus’ death?

That’s a great question, Trillia, and it’s one that we often don’t ask. I’d answer it in two ways: first, we have to remember that the Gospels are not just a collection of Jesus’s sayings but are historical narrative. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end. Christianity is more than history, but it is not less. And if this is so, then it matters what happened when. Secondly, if this final week really is the culmination of the gospels and the end-game of Christ’s earthly ministry, then every detail matters. We often get confused when reading a narrative if we lose track of where we are. Because there are four accounts, and because we often tend to skim through them (or just focus on the final 24 hours), most of us actually know less about that final week and its timeline than we assume.

Your book, though written by scholars and definitely useful to scholars, is not just for scholars. It has a devotional feel, was that intentional? How might churches, small groups, or families use it?

Yes, we wanted this book to be accessible while being informed by the best of evangelical scholarship. We envision the book being used by lots of different people, from pastors to families to small groups. I am really thankful that Crossway is making available a study guide with discussion questions, as well as a 40-day guide to read through each day of Lent. We hope these tools will make it all the more accessible and user-friendly.

Also, when do you suggest beginning the book if it is to be used as a learning tool, teaching, or devotional leading up to Holy Week?  

It can be read any time of year, but I’d recommend starting it on Wednesday, March 5, which is the first day of Lent. If someone wanted to read each section of the book on the corresponding day of Holy Week, Palm Sunday this year is on April 13.

You write that each of the Gospels shares the story of Jesus slightly differently. How do you reconcile that in your book?

It reminds me of when someone once asked Charles Spurgeon how he “reconciled” God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. He replied, “I never have to reconcile friends!”

We sometimes wonder why God didn’t inspire just one account. But having four accounts is actually a blessing. It helps us to look at the one person of Jesus through four different lenses. And even if we had 100 lenses, it still wouldn’t exhaust the reality of Christ. As John says at the close of his Gospel, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book” (John 20:30).

It’s helpful to step back and remember that the gospels were written by four different men at four different times for four different audiences in order to present four complementary pictures of Jesus. It may be helpful to lay it out in a little chart:

  Author Date Audience Picture of Jesus
Matthew Tax collector turned follower of Christ; one of the Twelve 50s or 60s Jews Jesus is the Jewish Messiah predicted in the OT, the son of David who comes to establish the kingdom of heaven
Mark Close associate of the Apostle Peter; may be the young man in Mark 14:50–51 Mid to late 50s Gentiles in Rome Jesus is the authoritative, suffering son of God who gives his life as a ransom for many
Luke Gentile physician and companion of the apostle Paul who interviewed eyewitness for his two-volume work (Lk 1:2) 58–60 A man named Theophilus Jesus is the Savior of the world who seeks and saves the lost in fulfillment of the OT promises to Israel
John The beloved disciple; not only one of the Twelve but in the inner circle of Jesus’ closest friends (with Peter and James) Mid to late 80s or early 90s The church in Ephesus Jesus is the messiah who demands belief and the lamb of God who dies for the sins of the world and gives those who believe eternal life

How were you personally affected through your studies while writing this book?

We know that one day when we see Christ face to face, we will be like him (1 John 3:2). And we know that by beholding him we become like him (2 Cor. 3:18). So even though we cannot see him now, we love him and believe in him and rejoice in him (1 Pet. 1:8–9). As we wait for that day when we can know him fully, even as we are known (1 Cor. 13:2), we can behold him in the pages of his word. As I worked on this project, that was the result for me. My affection and admiration for my Savior grew as I walked again and again with Jesus on this final week toward Calvary.

How do you think the church could benefit from reading your book?

Most of us have the besetting sin of rushing through life. Even if we have devotionals—reading our Bible and saying our prayers—we go pretty quickly. One way folks could benefit from this book is simply to use it as an opportunity to slow down. We usually don’t know what to do with Lent, though perhaps a few of us might give us chocolate or something for 40 days! But if we were to take these 40 days leading up to Easter, using them to meditate just a couple of pages at a time on this final week of Christ’s earthly life, we may be surprised at what the Lord does in our hearts and minds. So we have hopes that small groups and families and individuals might take up the challenge to slow down this month and decide to walk through the final days of the most important week of the most important person who ever lived!

Trillia Newbell

Trillia Newbell is the author of several books including A Great Cloud of Witnesses, Sacred Endurance, If God Is For Us, Fear and Faith,and the children’s books, Creative God, Colorful Us and  God’s Very Good Idea. When she isn’t writing, she’s encouraging and supporting other writers as an Acquisitions Editor at Moody … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24