Back in 2008, I remember pacing in the lobby of a coffee shop in Kansas City as I talked on the phone with someone who’s new friendship would prove to be one of the more formative
Andrew Peterson and I had only known each other for a while, but one discussion we returned to as often as we spoke was the topic of the story of Scripture. He, as a songwriter, and I, as a pastor, both invested much of our creative energies into telling the story of how God has dealt mercifully with a broken humanity.
In particular, he and I were both drawn personally and professionally to those pivotal narratives from the Gospels—the Nativity and the Passion.
That day on the phone we were talking about the challenges of trying to tell the Easter story well—noting how different the Easter story is from the Christmas story in the literature of the Bible. From Eden to the manger, the Christmas narrative stays largely at 30,000 feet as it unveils humanity’s epic need for a Savior. Sure, it swoops down to tell us about the shepherds, wisemen, and the stable outside of Bethlehem. But there is a cosmic quality to the Christmas story that even includes a star in the west as a character.
The Easter story, however, is told mostly from down in the dirt. Chapter after chapter are given to day-to-day, even hour-to-hour, details as they unfold in real time and space. Close to half of John’s Gospel is devoted to only four days time in one small city.
It was during that phone conversation when I decided I wanted to write Behold the King of Glory—though I did not yet know what I would call it. I wanted to get on the ground level and unpack the narrative of Jesus’s death and resurrection. I wanted to mine the details and display the drama of the unfolding story of what Jesus meant when he said he would lay his life down only to take it up again.
Though I tabled that book idea in favor of writing its companion, Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative, I always knew the time would come when I would return to Behold the King. I could not have imagined at the time that I would write the book from my new home in Nashville, and that Andrew and his brother Pete would be the friends and sounding boards they have become.
I asked Andrew to join me as a musical guest for my book release partly because I have the deepest respect for him as an artist, but also because I would not have written this book without his friendship. Andrew represents one of the things I love so much about my friends in this community. We help each other. We pour water on each other’s ideas and help them grow. We encourage each other. And more often than any of us deserve, we get to watch the genesis of one another’s ideas blossom into developed revelations.
Russ Ramsey is the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church Cool Springs in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and four children. He grew up in the fields of Indiana and studied at Taylor University and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv, ThM). Russ is the author of the Retelling the Story Series (IVP, 2018) and Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017).