Book Review

Learning how to follow Jesus from the characters of Easter

April 2, 2021

When I picked up Dan Darling’s book, The Characters of Easter, I expected a mere recounting of the various villains, heroes, cowards, and crooks that surrounded Jesus during the week leading up to the crucifixion. We read routinely about these characters in the Gospel accounts every year around Easter, but as Darling wants readers to experience through the book, the Passion and Resurrection of Christ “has never been more relevant than it is this ‘plague year’” (10). Why? Because Jesus has put Death to death through his death and resurrection. 

Darling’s book seeks to peek into the lives of the young and unlikely disciples, corrupt rulers, brave women, and criminals who witnessed firsthand the events of the cosmic drama unfolding in front of them. By looking at the setting in which Jesus lived and died, Darling reminds us of God’s great love displayed in his long and certain plan of salvation and rescue. 

Looking at Jesus through another’s eyes

Peter, John, Judas, Barabbas, Pilate, Thomas; The Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees; the women at the tomb, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, and the Roman Executioners all have a chapter devoted to them. Darling wants the reader to put themselves in the sandals of each one of these characters or groups of characters to look afresh at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and see our lives in theirs. How? By looking at each character, Darling stresses how they all had to encounter Jesus and how each of their responses can teach us something about following him. Each one had to decide how they would respond to the mercy and grace of Jesus toward them. 

Peter, though he denied Christ and stumbled in his faithfulness in his worst moments, was received by Christ and sent on mission for him. Peter shows that when burdened by our own sin, we should look to Christ who bore that sin on the cross and rose again to give us new life. John, a scornful “son of Thunder” toward those he opposed, was eventually called the “disciple of love.” Maybe we need our heart so transformed by the love of Christ that we bear a new description. Thomas, who doubted but was zealous at times for Christ, should move those who struggle with doubt to look again at Jesus’ nail-scarred hands and proclaim, “My Lord and my God.” 

The women who witnessed the resurrection not only witnessed the horror and agony of the crucifixion but were the first witnesses of the beauty and glory of Jesus’ resurrection. Like those women, we can experience the joy of the resurrection, knowing that reconciliation with God is now accomplished, and God is making all things new. And like these women, Christians are called to go tell the world about this wonderful news.

Darling points out how even the negative examples from Judas and Pilate and the Roman executioners can be beneficial for people to contemplate. Judas knew the language of the faith and had been close to Jesus, but became disillusioned because Jesus would not conform to Judas’ plans for him. Darling reminds the reader, “We are all like Judas in that we have also betrayed Jesus, time and time again. We’ve sold him for lesser idols. But we don’t have to suffer Judas’s fate. If we confess our sins, He’s faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)” (82). 

Pilate shows that truth is available in the person of Jesus Christ, the one who keeps pursuing those who try to avoid him. Joseph and Nicodemus, those covert disciples, display there is no neutrality when it comes to Jesus. One who encounters Jesus and wants to follow him is called to risk it all and proclaim allegiance to him as the risen King. Barabbas gloriously illustrates that Jesus dies in the place of guilty sinners, though Jesus was without sin. He is our substitute, the Lamb who was slain. 


Darling’s book compacts the density of the last week of Jesus’ days before and after his resurrection into a short, powerful book. The book is devotional in nature, ending each chapter with study questions and suggestions for songs and hymns to accompany reflection on the chapter.  Both pastor-theologians and lay church members alike will be edified by dwelling on what Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection means for them personally and also for the entire cosmos. 

Jesus inaugurated a victorious kingdom that will never end and will consummate that kingdom one day. Though we do not live in the first century, Darling pushes the reader to ask what he or she will do with the King of this kingdom. The gospel drips from the pages. Darling reminds us that King Jesus will graciously receive all those who come to him in repentance and faith. This is the most important reality to ponder this Easter, and Darling’s book helps us do that. 

Tim Walker

Tim Walker is the Pastoral Care and Communications Pastor at First Baptist Church Biloxi and an Adjunct Instructor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Darla, and they have four children. He has a Ph.D. (Theology) from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS), having written a dissertation … 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