My first exposure to N.T. Wright came through a graduate school class on the atonement. As we discussed the implications of the resurrection of Christ, Bert Dominy quoted a profound statement made by Wright in his book Jesus and the Victory of God. “The cross of Christ was not a defeat reversed by the resurrection,” Dominy said. “The cross of Christ is the victory of God revealed by the resurrection.”
A decade and a half have passed since that day, and throughout these years I have purchased and read most of Wright’s works. This habit has proved to be expensive, given the frequency of Wright’s publication releases, but I have yet to regret a single dollar spent.
This morning I concluded one of Wright’s recent releases, titled Simply Jesus. This is an outstanding book that makes three important contributions to one’s understanding of Jesus and his first century context. First, Wright explains with great clarity the environment and culture of the first century world where Jesus walked. He helps the reader understand the incarnational ministry of Jesus in a day when Roman rule flexed its muscles and Messianic expectation was at a fevered pitch. These insights help color and shape the words Jesus spoke and gives one an idea of how his words must have fallen upon the ears of the original hearers.
The second important contribution the book offers is a simplified version of his exodus motif. For years Wright has maintained that the best way to understand the gospels is to read them in parallel with the Old Testament story of the deliverance of the children of Israel from their slavery in Egypt. It’s a helpful bit of insight that will give the Bible student a deeper appreciation of what the purposes of God in the world are all about.
Finally, I was impressed with Wright’s concluding assessment of what Jesus and the Kingdom of God means to today’s church. His final chapter details with great clarity what he believes to be Jesus vision for the church in the world. It is passionate, provocative, and compelling. I won’t go into further detail simply because I could never give justice to Wright’s words. Suffice it to say, this final chapter was the most inspiring (non biblical) text I read in 2011.
If you’re a fan of the life of Jesus and would like a challenging read, I recommend Simply Jesus. Don’t worry about being able to comprehend it. Rather, worry about being able to apprehend it. It could change your life.