The last conversations we have with loved ones are precious to us. In The Last Word, Wallace Benn unpacks Jesus’ last words before His death, from John’s Gospel, chapters 13 to 17. Bishop Benn has a delightful writing style that enhances the devotional nature of this helpful and heart-warming book.
The book is well set out, being divided into five sections:
- The Last Demonstration,
- The Last Question Time,
- The Last Gift,
- Last Perspectives,
- Lasting Joy.
At the very beginning, Bishop Benn whets our appetite for what is to come by asking provoking questions such as why does Christian living sometimes descend into loveless duty? Or, why are some believers paralysed with unanswered questions? Or, why do some Christians seem powerless and discouraged? He assures us that these and other questions will be answered, and raises anticipation for what is to come the rest of the book – and he does not disappoint.
In The Last Demonstration, Bishop Benn opens up the significance of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. There have been many sermons on this subject, but Bishop Benn considers what happened in a fresh way by likening it to an acted parable. I found it particularly helpful that he linked it with Philippians 2: Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet was a visual representation of that passage. In this first section, Bishop Benn also looks at the reality that Christians sometimes hurt and disappoint each other, just as Peter hurt and disappointed the Lord by denying Him. He exhorts us to acknowledge the ‘Peter’ in one other, and to be like Jesus in showing forgiveness and not giving up on each other.
The Last Question Time examines the four main questions and answers at the end of John 13 and 14, namely: where are You going? How can we know the way? Show us the Father, and why show Yourself to us and not to the world?
The Last Gift Jesus gave to His Church is the Holy Spirit. In these chapters, Bishop Benn gives a balanced view of the Person and work of the Spirit. I think this section is best summed up in his own conclusion:
What a marvellous, wonderful, delightful, invigorating, life-giving, Jesus-glorifying, helpful last gift Jesus gave, in love, to His disciples! May we revel in the Spirit’s ministry and not resist His prompting nor quench His activity in us. And to Jesus, the One He delights to glorify, be all the glory and the praise.
After exciting us and giving us a taste of Heaven on earth in the first three sections, Bishop Benn then turns to the realities of living for Christ in the world.
In Last Perspectives, Bishop Benn considers how vitial it is that we abide in Christ like branches attached to a vine. Without Jesus we can do nothing and it is vital that we cling to Him and rely on Him for everything. We are also encouraged that God Himself chose us and appointed us to live fruitful lives that glorify Him. Bishop Benn writes of the sometimes harsh reality of living in the real world. If Jesus was misjudged and illtreated, His followers must expect the same. But when we feel overwhelmed by troubles, our comfort is the same as that which Jesus gave to the first disciples: He is preparing a place for us in His Father’s home, and He has given the Comforter who lives inside us. Life is hard, but the Holy Spirit of Truth gives all the strength, encouragement and ability to obey that we need.
Lasting Joy explains how all Christians can experience joy. Jesus’ final words in John 13 to 17 are all about joy. Christians aren’t meant to be legalistic and ‘doom and gloom’ – God is a joyful God and we are to be full of joy too. What’s not to be joyful in knowing Jesus?!
I greatly enjoyed reading this book, which opens up a familiar passage of the Bible in a new and fresh way. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
I am grateful to Christian Focus Publications for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of writing a review.