The Kingdom and the Cross (by James Bryan Smith) | A Book Review

 How can something so central seem so overlooked? How can a moment of redemption feel so undefined, so forgotten, so underappreciated?

For those who rely on Jesus, what do you believe about atonement and justification? What have people taught you about the purpose of the cross?

As I have wrestled with those questions, I have discovered a very open, very loose feeling story – a story that seems to have so many answers, so many perspectives out there. This story of “The Cross” and redemption is also something I’ve heard many of us struggle to spell out and re-tell.

Really, if someone were to ask you, “What’s the point of the cross?” how would you respond? Do you feel comfortable with your reply?

In The Kingdom and the Cross, James Bryan Smith writes a short devotional piece that helps us pause and wonder. His work is designed to inspire contemplation rather than meditation (that is, a state of wonder in the face of beauty). It is a little book that helped me pause. It doesn’t have endless lists of Scripture verses, but aims for simple statements and stories; it doesn’t take us through the trenches of historical development of atonement theories, but rather invites us to pause in front of art and icons, seeing through artistic windows the depth and grace of redemption.

…perhaps that’s just what we need these days – a few less arguements and pride-inspired correctness, and more dwelling with the Father because of Jesus, which seems to be the point of the cross anyway.

I decided to read The Kingdom and the Cross because our church will be spending the coming season of Lent exploring God’s love for us in the cross. I have been spending time with other authors, like John Stott, on the topic of the cross, and was delighted to read Smith’s writing. I trust and appreciate Smith’s articulation and simplicity and found his devotional book fitting for the coming season. As I’ve been exploring atonement, justification, and the cross, Smith’s simplicity was refreshing – as though he was breathing the kind of life that the cross intended to bring.

For future readers of The Kingdom and the Cross, I recommend pairing Smith’s book with a good study of the four Gospel endings. Get into Scripture and let Smith’s work expound on what’s going on there. I think that would be an enriching experience for any group.