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Thursday, November 27, 2014

"The Grave Robber" (Mark Batterson)

TITLE: The Grave Robber: How Jesus Can Make Your Impossible Possible
AUTHOR: Mark Batterson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014, (288 pages).

Miracles are not restricted to the past. They exist in both the present as well as the future. In Batterson's words, "sometimes God shows up. Sometimes God shows off." Based on the famous seven signs recorded in the Gospel of John, Batterson asserts once again that each of these signs point to the Person of Jesus Christ. These stories reveal the power of God not only for the people then, but also for us. We are all urged not to miss the miracle. John's signs are meant to stretch our faith. Every miracle does its part to build up a grand picture of Jesus coming to earth as a humble baby, and rising up to heaven in glory and honour. All in the power of Almighty God.

The first sign showed us that the miracle at the wedding in Cana was no mere coincidence. Every water molecule was converted to wine. In fact, it foreshadowed the Last Supper where wine was the blood of the Lamb. Batterson describes how Mary nudges Jesus and reminds us of Hebrews 10 that nudges us toward good works. We read of how a bridegroom's potentially worst embarrassment can become a beautiful moment to bless the guests. The One who made it all possible? Jesus.

While the first sign was a miracle at a "molecular" level, the second sign pulled in the "physiological and geographical" aspects. In a response to the Roman official who didn't pull ranks, who humbly sought out Jesus for help, Jesus spoke as if He already knew what the need was. Jesus was more than ready to do the healing. He is always listening, always ready, always on time. Batterson encourages us to pray believing that our lives will "turn into a merry-go-round of miracles." He shares a few instances from the Prayer Circle, one of them being the prayer circle for the Ebenezer coffeehouse that not only served millions of customers, but enabled them to give more than a million dollars away for charitable causes.

The third sign about healing of the lame man showed Jesus looking past the superstitious beliefs of the man and the magical healing powers when the angels moved the waters at the pool of Bethesda. Showing that the biggest problem for the man was mental rather than physical, Jesus debunked the superstition by pointing out the need for right belief. It was a miracle where Jesus exercised "tough love." Not only must the man take up his mat himself, he needed to walk. Furthermore, he was to sin no more, lest something worse would befall him. More importantly, the time of occurrence makes this sign a particularly poignant one. By working precisely on the Sabbath, Jesus was also trying to correct wrongly held beliefs by the Pharisees and the general Jewish culture. Jesus was no rule breaker. He is a reality maker.

The fourth sign was to demonstrate there was no problem too great for God to handle. Jesus is a Multiplier. He provides in great abundance. He shows us that generosity is not about how much we give. It is about willingness to use whatever we have to be used to bless others. Just like the multiplication of five loaves and two fishes that can only feed a few people, God used the small amount to feed the huge masses of people.

The fifth sign was Jesus walking on water. Not only that, Jesus was walking in the middle of the dark night and the midst of a coming storm. From John's gospel, it was about three and a half miles out to sea. Jesus shows us what it means to be trusting God to guide in the middle of darkness and stormy conditions. His walking is a step of faith in itself.

The sixth sign about the healing of the man born blind, teaches us to "never say never." Even the worst circumstances of life can be used by God for a bigger purpose. It showed the blind man what it meant to be given a second leash of life. The dramatic picture was Jesus being the light of the world even as the man was deemed permanently shrouded in the darkness of being blind.

The seventh sign is the grand climax of the list of seven. It is also the one that captures the choice for title of this book. Batterson tells us the Jewish burial customs that there was not one but two miracles here. The first was the resurrection of Lazarus, and the second was how he got up in "full body cast." Death had lost its sting. Lazarus was called out of death, out of sin, and out of the tomb. Interestingly, why did Jesus not heal Lazarus in the first place, and chose instead to raise him from the dead? It must be due to Jesus knowing that there is something bigger at stake: God's will. This seventh sign foreshadows greatest event to occur on earth: Jesus' resurrection.

So What?
Filled with powerful stories and captivating illustrations, Batterson has expounded with skill and fluency the seven signs of Jesus according to the gospel of John. By entitling the book as the "grave robber," he begins with the end in mind. He is mindful of the great resurrection story of Jesus. He tells us that we need not look at death with fear but to gaze into the future with hope, knowing that what God did with Jesus, He promises to do the same to all who believe. These seven signs are simple but immensely profound in showing us not only what God can do, but who Jesus is. In the first sign, Jesus has been portrayed as a Miracle maker who can turn ordinary things into extraordinary brillance. In the second sign, Jesus tells us that miracles are not just for Jews but also for Gentiles. The third sign points out the need to go beyond our superstition of earthly philosophies but on the heavenly promises in Jesus. The fourth sign tells us that no problem is too big or too small for God to handle. The fifth sign reminds us about the step of faith, that Jesus Himself had taken. The sixth sign shows us what seem impossible in man is possible with God. Finally, the seventh sign points us to the resurrection, which is the culmination of faith, hope, and glory in God.

Conveniently packaged, each chapter in the book runs like a sermon ready to be given. The stories keep readers engaged. I appreciate the time and space given to expound the biblical passages. I warmly recommend this book as a Bible study material for groups, personal devotions through the gospel of John, or simply a sermon layout for preachers. Take the time to savour the wise teachings in the book. More importantly, let the book point us to honour the One who made it all possible: Jesus.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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