Jesus is under attack. This somber fact has profound and far-reaching implications for believers and unbelievers alike. Jesus has always been under attack, of course. From the day Herod sought to destroy the infant Christ to the day of his judicial murder at the hands of the Roman Pontius Pilate, and on numerous occasions in between when the ruling authorities in his home town of Nazareth sought to kill him, he was under attack. Even before that, before the foundation of the earth, He had been the object of Satanic jealousy and malice.
In more recent times, the attack on Jesus has been more ideologically oriented as historical-critical scholarship began to be applied to the life and work of Jesus. The attack, focused on the reliability of the biblical record purports to "demythologize" the historical under standing of Jesus leaving a Christ barely recognizable. Followers of this process today are numerous, widespread, educated, vocal, and influential.
So, we might ask, What's new? Jesus has always had His enemies. There have always been those who have attempted to explain Him away, undermine His credentials, weaken His influence, counter His teachings, dispense with His redemptive significance, in fact, to destroy Him.
Today Jesus is the object of a renewed offensive, more radical, intense, and in some respects different from the attacks of previous generations. People are now talking openly for the first time, at least in the modern era, of the possibility that the Christian faith might be on its way out. A distinguished scholar expressed the conviction in a recent television documentary that Christianity would be finished by the first quarter of the twenty-first century.
Adventists, of all people, should emphasize Jesus more and more as the author and finisher of Christian faith. Jesus' eternal, perpetual existence, creative power, communicative initiative toward humanity, miraculous birth, exemplary life, compassionate ministry, substitutionary death at Calvary, victorious resurrection and ascension, priestly ministry on our behalf in heavenly places, plus His promised soon return, must be the recurring theme and most prominent feature of all our proclamation if we are to fulfill the mission of lifting up Jesus before the world.
With this in mind, I am eager to introduce Ministry readers to The Essential Jesus, an outstanding book that affirms Jesus as the heart and substance of authentic Christian faith. The book is being published by Pacific Press and will be available in Adventist Book Centers in May 2002.
The original concept and dream for this book came from William G. Johnsson, Adventist Review editor, and Bryan W. Ball, recently-retired administrator. Their production leadership has included a phenomenal group of leading theologians who have united their efforts to lift up Jesus as the centrality of the gospel, the source and only reason for Christian faith and mission.
This thoroughly Scriptural work, with hundreds of biblical references for documentation, examines and explains the essence of who Jesus was and what He came to earth to accomplish.
Note the chapters and authors: "The Influence of Jesus," William C. Johnsson; "The Jesus of History," Nancy J. Vyhmeister; "The Coming of Jesus Anticipated," Laurence A. Turner; "The Birth of Jesus," Bryan W. Ball; "Jesus: Divinity Revealed Through Humility," Norman H. Young; "The Work and Words of Jesus," Steven A. Thompson, "The Death of Jesus," Raoul F. Dederen; "The Risen Jesus," David N. Marshall; "Jesus: the Man for Others," Roy Adams; "Jesus and Ourselves," Andrea T. Luxton; "Jesus: Priest and Coming King," Ivan T . Blazen; "The Victorious Jesus," Jan Paulsen; "Jesus and The Great Commission," Bryan W. Ball.
Although envisioned and developed by Adventist scholars, this book will have broad appeal to all denominations as it authenticates the biblical Jesus in the face of the attacks of liberalism and secularism and reveals the flawed presuppositions of much con temporary scholarship.
While The Essential Jesus is based on sound, reliable scholarship—all contributors hold doctoral degrees in biblical, theological, or related disciplines—it is also highly readable, convincing, inspiring, and faith-building. Its readers will discover a ready resource of sermon preparation and personal Bible study benefits beyond its reference book sub stance. Practical, usable applications will readily assist pastors who prepare and present spiritual food for their con gregations.
I envision a series of sermons being developed from each of the chapters. In fact, I encourage presentation of an extended series with the overall theme, The Essential Jesus. You might select the first Sabbath of every month as the designated, monthly continua tion of this systematic proclamation and reaffirmation of faith and confidence in Jesus.