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Book Review: King’s Cross by Tim Keller

Logan Keck is a former member of the Summit church who is now an A29 Church planter in Boston, MA.  You can read about his work at www.eglestonproject.org. Below Logan reviews the latest book by Tim Keller titled King’s Cross
King’s Cross taught me many things, but above all it taught me never agree to a book review when you are planting a church.  Months after receiving my copy I am just now able to sit down and write a few words about it.
I should say from the outset, I am a PCA pastor, and like many of my reformed brethren I have a certain affinity for all things Keller.  I tend to devour his books, I occasionally shell out $2.50 for a sermon mp3, and I have been to several conferences at Redeemer.  I find that Tim Keller is often able to communicate truth with a precision and clarity that many current preachers and authors lack.  In that regard, King’s Cross met most of my expectations.
 Unlike his previous offerings, King’s cross is an exposition of an entire book of the bible.  It’s not quite a commentary because there are several portions of the Gospel of Mark that are left out (for instance, Jesus healing the demon possessed man in Mark 5).  Nevertheless, the book hits on most of the key passages in an insightful and inspirational way.
The greatest strength of King’s Cross is the gospel-centered pattern of each chapter.  It seems a bit redundant that a book about the Gospel of Mark would be called gospel-centered, but oftentimes pastors and scholars use the stories of Christ told in the Gospels as an example to hold before their audience rather than a reality that can empower them.  Keller puts is well in the chapter entitled The Sword when he says “Jesus Christ as only and example will crush you; you will never be able to live up to it.  But Jesus as the Lamb will save you.”  Throughout the book, Keller turns each story from the life of Christ back to the audience to show how a true encounter with Christ as savior will not simply deliver from sin, but also enable us to live a life that glorifies him.  Rather than simply saying Jesus did it this way and you should too, he brings each story back to the deep reality of our individual brokenness and need for Christ at every point of our life.  He invites his readers to rest in Christ’s accomplishment and find how life makes sense once we find our ultimate satisfaction in him.  The Gospel message is beautiful, and Keller reminds the audience again and again how we will never reach the point when we have mastered it.
The highlight of the book comes in chapter 14 The Feast, a chapter recounting the institution of the Lord’s Supper.  Keller dives into the history of the Passover meal and draws out the rich symbolism that few Christians realize exists in the account.  In fact, I think anyone who takes communion seriously would be wise to get a hold of this chapter and think through the meaning of the sacramental meal that is often neglected in our churches.  The detail with which King’s Cross examines the account infuses the Lord’s supper with a renewed sense of hope not only in the grace given to us through Christ, but also the expectation of his return.  Keller writes:
If you put seeds into a pot of soil and then put them away in the dark…the seeds go into dormancy…But if you bring the pot with seeds into the presence of the sun, all that has been locked within them bursts forth.  The Bible says that everything in this world – not just we human beings, but even the plants, the trees, the rocks –  is dormant, These things are just shadows of what they…will be in the presence of their creator.  When the lamb of God presides again over the final feast and the presence of God covers the earth again, the trees and hills will be able to clap and dance, so alive will they be.  And if the trees and hills will be able to clap and dance in the future kingdom, picture what you and I will be able to do.

The Feast is a beautiful chapter that would also serve as a great resource to all who desire deeper understanding of the communion meal.

King’s Cross is an good read worthy of the time it takes to get through its 230 pages, but in comparison to Tim Keller’s other recent works I found it a bit less focused.  In the acknowledgments section Keller mentions the challenge of compiling a sermon series into a book, and although the final product is well-polished, there are still some sections that seem to lack a strong connection to rest of the book.  In other words, it was easy for me to read a chapter of King’s Cross and put it down without much compelling me to read the next chapter.  The advantage of this kind of book is that you can easily read a chapter from the middle of the book if you are planning a bible study or a sermon on that passage, but I found it less engrossing as a cover to cover read.

If you see the hard copy of this book or many of Tim Keller’s other books, you will see a quote touting him as a new C.S. Lewis-type figure.  That of course is high praise, and not far off considering the breadth of Keller’s reach and accessibility in our culture.  Stylistically speaking though, Keller’s writing bears more similarity another of his British influences, Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Much like Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, or Life in Christ, King’s Cross is a collection of sermons firmly grounded in the grace of Christ that mine the riches of the Biblical text in an eye opening way.
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