Hodder and Stoughton
ISBN 9781 3998 0524 7
144 Pages

Buying a Lent book can be a little like choosing a coffee at my favourite café. Confronted with a range of sizes, styles, milks, and toppings., my preference is for a double espresso; it’s short, has a depth of flavour and usually hits the spot. This Lent book from Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York, has a similar effect.

The reflections in this book began life as Good Friday meditations 30 years ago. During that time, they were simmering on the backburner but came to the boil during the pandemic, when many people felt forsaken.

These thoughts are based on Jesus’ cry of dereliction from the cross, as recorded in Mark’s Gospel. The author writes: “This book aims simply and steadfastly to plumb the depths of these words, discovering in them a strange and beautiful hope …”

This extended meditation in seven chapters does achieves that by gradually drawing the reader into the heart of God’s purposes as revealed in the cross of Jesus. The sky-piercing cry of Jesus is unpacked with reference to the whole biblical story, contemporary culture, and the contours of the human heart.

Firstly, the book made me think more intentionally about what was going on within Jesus as he dies on the cross. It also helped me to consider the way that this cry of dereliction was misunderstood at the time and can still puzzle us today.

Secondly, it reminded me of the value of having the rich resources of Scripture. Jesus’ use of Psalm 22:1 shows how to draw on these resources at the critical moments in life and death. The author talks about how these remembered resources can be: “… a gift we can unwrap on our deathbed.”

Thirdly, it helped me to feel the cross as well as understand it.

As the author said to me: “You can only understand the cross by standing under it.”

This book is a timely invitation to do that by meditating on the cross through tears that can transform into hope.

John Woods is a writer and Bible teacher based in West Sussex. He is Director of Training at the School of Preachers in Riga, Latvia.