N. T. Wright’s Simply Jesus
I have been reading N. T. Wrights’ Simply Jesus. It is a marvelous book. Reading it for me was as exciting and breath-taking-away as reading a thriller. Wright used the idea of a perfect storm to talk about the current debates about who Jesus is and whether or not God is real and the swirl of forces in Jesus’ own time that led him to the cross. I had never read such a fresh, novel, theologically deep, and impactful book on who Jesus is and why he matters more today than ever before. This is one book that is a must-read not just for Jesus’ followers but even for those who don’t believe he is the way, the truth, and the life. Reading this while attending my pastor’s class on the trinity gave me a new and deeper perspective on who God is and what it means to lead a meaningful, Christ centered, God glorifying life.
We have grown used to the battles over Jesus—whether he was human or divine, whether he could do miracles or just inspire them, whether he even existed. Much of the church defends tradition, while critics take shots at the institution and its beliefs. But what if these debates have masked the real story of Jesus? What if even Jesus’s defenders have been so blinded by their focus on defending the church’s traditions that they have failed to grapple with what the New Testament really teaches?
Bible scholar, Anglican bishop, and bestselling author N. T. Wright summarizes a lifetime of study of Jesus and the New Testament in order to present for a general audience who Jesus was and is and why it matters. In Simply Jesus, we are invited to hear one of our leading scholars introduce the story of the carpenter’s son from Nazareth as if we were hearing it for the first time.
“Jesus—the Jesus we might discover if we really looked,” explains Wright, “is larger, more disturbing, more urgent than we had ever imagined. We have successfully managed to hide behind other questions and to avoid the huge, world-shaking challenge of Jesus’s central claim and achievement. It is we, the churches, who have been the real reductionists. We have reduced the kingdom of God to private piety; the victory of the cross to comfort for the conscience; Easter itself to a happy, escapist ending after a sad, dark tale. Piety, conscience, and ultimate happiness are important, but not nearly as important as Jesus himself.” As the church faces the many challenges of the twenty-first century, Wright has presented a vision of Jesus that more than meets them.
I am excited by this new vision of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. I find myself wanting to learn more about this Jesus wanting to follow this bigger, more disturbing, and urgent Jesus than the pious shadow. I want to learn what it means to walk in the way of Jesus and share what I learn with others.
A good summary of Wright’s major theme is this sentence “The gospels are not about `how Jesus turned out to be God.’ They are about how God became king on earth as in heaven.” Put another way: the Good News of Jesus Christ has to do with much more than people simply escaping earth for heaven.
While Wright doesn’t dismiss other ways of viewing the meaning of Jesus’ death, such as an example of love, a representation of His people, and a penal understanding, Wright transcends these limited understandings. Ultimately, Wright thinks these other meanings are all united in the greater meaning that “Jesus’s death was seen by Jesus himself, and then by those who told and ultimately wrote his story, as the ultimate means by which God’s kingdom is established.”
I love the way that Wright speaks of Easter as being the New Creation that demonstrates that “God’s kingdom is now launched, and launched in power and glory, on earth as in heaven.” He ties the Resurrection, as well, to Ascension and Enthronement. Wright concludes with where I wish he had begun with a brilliant presentation of how Jesus is already the Ruler of the World.
In the end, Simply Jesus lives up to its large claim to be a new look at Jesus and what He did. I heartily recommend it . I hope this review of this marvelous book will make you want to go out and purchase a copy today. Wright also has written a follow-up to this book called How God Became King where he treats the good news in the good news.