“Jesus Wins.” This is the way in which Mark Braaten introduces to his readership the underlying meaning of what is universally recognized as a complex and esoteric text. His book, Come Lord Jesus, is a little gem of biblical scholarship which, as promised, never forgets the pastoral context and lay audience he has in mind from the outset.
Through an initial examination of such questions as “who wrote Revelation?”, “where was it written?”, “to whom?”, “how is it to be understood and why is it to be read today?”, Braaten begins his study by taking seriously the methods of form-criticism and more broadly historical-criticism. From there on out he gently unfolds the meaning of Revelation, not only as it would have been understood by its original audience, but through that, how it should be received by the Christian community today. As such, he avoids both a shallow popularization of the text on the one hand, and the tedium of exegetical jargon on the other. For example, while almost entirely avoiding the terminology of “recapitulation,” Braaten nevertheless conveys with great clarity, the repetitious and cyclical nature of Revelation, which is indispensable for a proper interpretation of the text.
Thus, the perspective of Come Lord Jesus is clear: one will not find in its pages any suggestion as to whom may be the latest political candidate bearing the mark of the beast, nor is there any kindle for the fires of a fanatical millenarianism. To the contrary, Braaten situates Revelation in its proper historical framework through which he is able to help the reader make sense of the otherwise bizarre symbolism, gematria, prophecy and visions that punctuate the book. He makes clear and concise connections with the present day, not by attempting to demonstrate that Revelation contains Nostradamus-like prophecies, but by simply drawing the reader’s attention to ways in which the contemporary church finds itself in situations that are similar to that of the original audience. Most importantly, he succeeds in assisting the reader to see beyond the veil of violence and destruction which so permeates Revelation, to a God who is first and finally tender, loving and compassionate.
Structurally speaking, Braaten’s book is divided into eight sections, each of which begins with a helpful summary of that which the reader should expect to find in the subsequent pages as well as the precise chapters and verses that will be covered. For easy referencing he includes the entire NRSV translation of Revelation, divided and sectioned off with borders, just prior to his exploration of them. He writes with enthusiasm, tenderness and passion, often beseeching his readers to pause and reflect on the beauty and depth of some of the fantastical imagery with which Revelation presents us.
As a book faithfully and successfully geared toward the laity, one might have hoped to find a section with discussion questions for group study, so to make the book more usable in parishes with less capable hands than those of the author. Nevertheless, Come Lord Jesus is pastoral enough to be implemented in virtually any adult parish educational setting, and scholarly enough to serve in a high school or introductory college-level course.
Indeed, in Revelation, “Jesus wins.” And in his book, Come Lord Jesus, so does Braaten.