Reviews Theology

Review: The Third Day

Alex Webb-Peploe and André Parker. The Third Day: The Gospel of Luke Chapters 22-24. Surrey, UK: The Good Book Company, 2014. $6.29 (Amazon). 44 pp.

Teenagers and young adults read. Physics, chemistry, history, The Grapes of Wrath, economics. You name it. They are told to read it. And, for the most part, they do read (if they want to graduate high school or college!).  Academic reading is a pathway to adulthood. You just have to do it.

So if you have ever ministered to students, then you know it is a challenge to get them to read the Bible, much less enjoy it. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a student (high school or college) say to me, “I don’t have time to read the Bible because I have so much homework and I have to read x-amount of pages before Friday.” I get it. I use to be there. But we can’t be content this. If you don’t read your American history textbook, you may be clueless about the Boston Tea Party. If you don’t read your Genesis or Romans, you will be clueless about matters of eternal significance.

So the question comes up, “How do we get young people to read the Bible?” My answer is that we must start small and do our best to make the Bible exciting, compelling, dramatic, yet at the same time faithfully represent of the actual words of God. For many of us, we immediately think that this applies to teaching the Bible with words (in youth group, summer camps, etc.). That is good and helpful, but what if it meant actually illustrating the Bible graphically? You know, providing some teeth to the biblical story in a way that might resonate with a teen. Alex Webb-Peploe and André Parker have done just that with a new graphic novel titled The Third Day.

The Third Day is, what the authors call, a “graphic realization” of the Bible. It’s not a “comic book” (read here to learn the difference). The book tells the story of Luke 22-24, which traces Jesus’ last hours before his crucifixion and resurrection. The story begins with Judas’ deal to betray Jesus and ends, as the Gospel of Luke does, with Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. The novel uses the complete text of Luke 22-24 from the Holman Christian Standard Bible. No one can argue that the book is a compromise of the Holy Scriptures because it used the “worldly medium” of graphic novel. The words are the exact words Luke wrote down, only beautifully represented with graphics.

Now about that graphic representation. It’s superb. It’s gritty, raw, and dark—far removed from the sanitized representations in Sunday School material or Hollywood movies. Jesus and his disciples look like the rag-tag bunch the Gospels make them out to be. The scenes, most prominently people’s faces, draw out the pain, anger, heartache, fear, brokenness, sadness, and unspeakable joy of Luke’s tone. The Third Day brings the Passion narrative to life with a punch. It’s a refreshing reminder that the gospel, though timeless, actually happened in a specific historic context at a certain point in time.

One particular scene that was helpful for me was after Jesus shared the Passover meal and the disciples argued about who is the greatest. The authors depicted the “dispute that arose among them” as a physical confrontation, in which one disciple grabs the shirt of another (imagine grabbing someone to throw them up against the wall) as they stand nose-to-nose (see the first image below.). In the West a “dispute” is usually done across a boardroom table with a Starbucks in hand. I can’t know if the art represents reality, but it makes me stop, think, and reconsider my assumptions of the text. That’s what good art, not to mention preaching and teaching, is supposed to do.

I highly recommend The Third Day for young people who find the story of Jesus (or the church’s modern re-telling of it) boring, uninspiring, or unrealistic. If you’re a parent or a youth minister, get a copy (or many copies) and give them away. My hope is that God will use this graphic novel, and others like it, to help young people to take Scriptures and the gospel story within it seriously.

Here are a few sample pages (click to enlarge).

Life Theology

Passion Week – Tuesday

This is a re-post of the Passion series from last year.

Daniel 7:13-14:

I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.

And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

The kingdom of God is about one Man, namely, Jesus.  In our meditation yesterday, I wrote, “Jesus is bringing [the disciples] in [to the kingdom], not so that they can be the king, but so that they can be a part of Jesus’ kingdom. We, by grace, get to be participants. It’s all about Jesus.  Not me.”

In Luke 22, when Jesus is standing before the council, he implicitly refers back to this passage in Daniel by calling himself the Son of Man.  When Jesus says, “From now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Lk. 22:69), he means that he is going to reign over his kingdom — the kingdom that God the Father, the Ancient of Days, has given him.

Jesus will not reign as a weak, feeble, doormat king.  No.  He will reign in power.  The first time he came, he was abused and mistreated and murdered.  Now he reigns with the Father after completing his work on earth (see Heb. 1:3).  When he returns the second time, it will not be in meekness nor will it be to save, but to judge and establish his throne upon the earth (see Rev. 19-21).

Daniel tells us that the son of Man — Jesus Christ, the God-man — has been given “dominion and glory and a kingdom.”  His dominion is everlasting, and his kingdom will not be destroyed.  His kingdom will reach every kind of people with every kind of language in every kind of place.  And Jesus purchased this kingdom, these people who serve him, by dying on the cross on Good Friday and raising from the dead on Easter Sunday.

Lord God Almighty, I praise you for giving your Son dominion, glory, and a kingdom — a kingdom of people he purchased with his own flesh and blood. Remind me daily that I am a part of this kingdom by grace and no merit of my own.


A Prayer from Tozer

This is the prayer at the end of chapter one of A.W. Tozer’s book, “The Pursuit of God.”  If I read nothing else from this book, this prayer would have been enough:

O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.  I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give me more grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


What Makes a Sermon Great

You don’t have to be John Piper or Mark Driscoll to preach a great sermon.  What makes a sermon great is not the fame of the preacher, the size of the sanctuary, or the volume of the speaker’s voice.

This could be a very long post, but for the sake of brevity, here are, at least, three things that a pastor should have/do to make a sermon great:

  • Passion for Jesus so hearers leave wanting to know the Jesus you know.
  • Faithfulness to the text in that you labor to explain what it means, instead of using the text to prove your points.
  • Give hard challenges to holiness so that the information you gave them (theological, cultural, social, etc.) turns from information to transformation.

As I grow older (not that I’m old), I find that these three are usually intertwined, and number three is often a fruit of the first two.  I hear so many sermons that are more like a youth group talk on Wednesday night.  It might even be biblical theology, but it is weak sauce in conviction and does nothing to challenge a person to want more of Christ in their life.

Most weeks, what a Christian needs is the velvet hammer, not the teddy bear on the Downy Soft commercials.  Sermons today lack that extra something that makes me leave and think, “I’m awful and God is supreme.  What do I need to trust him for this week?  Where do I need to repent?  What about my life needs to be transformed by his grace?”

Remember that I am not a pastor, but as a weekly hearer and as an aspiring pastor, these are things I think are essential to the preaching ministry of a pastor.   Our end goal shouldn’t be “great sermons.”  Our end goal should be to make Christ look great by glorifying him with our words and lives.  However, pastors should be ready and willing, by God’s grace, to give their best on Sunday as they proclaim God’s word in order to edify and challenge God’s people.

What other things do you think are essential to a make a sermon great?