Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper (Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. 124 pp)
John Piper is a Christian preacher, author, and theologian. He is currently preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His works include Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, The Passion of Jesus Christ, and Don’t Waste Your Life.
The Problem of Jesus Christ
John Piper manages to accurately summarize the problem of Jesus Christ: humans, no matter their religious affiliation, try to make Jesus fit into a pre-conceived mold they have set for Him. Perhaps it’s better to just let Him be who He is, both immensely loving and surprisingly offensive. Piper states,
“There is no more important issue in life than seeing Jesus for who he really is” (123).
Piper systematically considers this idea by presenting thirteen short chapters that end with a prayer, functioning more as one’s own personal miniature Bible study.
For Piper, understanding Jesus means focusing on the glory of God, a topic he is known to focus on. In Desiring God, for instance, he focuses on what it means to seek God’s glory in all aspects of life. Piper argues in most of his books, including this one, that man was made to reflect God’s glory in constant worship.
“The created universe is all about glory. The deepest longing of the human heart and the deepest meaning of heaven and earth are summed up in this: the glory of God. The universe was made to show it, and we were made to see it and savor it. Nothing less will do. Which is why the world is as disordered and dysfunctional as it is. We have exchanged the glory of God for other things (Romans 1:23)” (13).
Piper proposes that one ought to focus on the glory of God to know Jesus Christ, not in lieu of studying more about the historical Jesus and the teachings of the Bible, or the knowledge of the sacraments of the Church overall, but rather as the core motive in the pursuit of Jesus Christ. Piper also argues that seeking God’s glory isn’t a means, but rather an end.
“Christ does not exist in order to make much of us. We exist in order to enjoy making much of him. The assumption of this book is that to know the glories of Christ is an end, not a means. Christ is not glorious so that we get wealthy or healthy. Christ is glorious so that rich or poor, sick or sound, we might be satisfied in him” (21).
The Tough Side
The tough side of this concept for most, if not all, is that the glory of Jesus Christ is hard to grasp. For many, they have seen the Jesus of the Bible ill-portrayed by his followers and have become embittered. But, Piper states,
“The glory of Jesus Christ is that he is always out of sync with the world and therefore always relevant for the world. If he fit nicely, he would be of little use. The effort to remake the Jesus of the Bible so that he fits the spirit of one generation makes him feeble in another. Better to let him be what he is, because it is often the offensive side of Jesus that we need the most. Especially offensive to the modern, Western sentiment is the tough, blunt, fierce form of Jesus’ love” (93).
I have a problem with most theology books. Ninety percent of the time they are far too long. I think theological books can sometimes be distilled into their essence and fit into the confines of a magazine article. Luckily, this isn’t the case in John Piper’s Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, which imparts some theological truths in just over 100 pages.
Because it isn’t a theological treatise that goes on too long, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ is easily read, and easily applicable. Normally frustrated with Piper’s longer works, I find this book refreshing as its brevity really capitalizes on Piper’s knowledge quickly. I recommend this book to Christians and those interested in hearing more about Jesus.
Verdict: 4 out of 5