This year, during Holy Week, I read N. T. Wright's latest work, How God Became King. It was the perfect book for Holy Week.
I like that he avoids the old rugged cross, washed in the blood of the lamb theology, while not getting rid of the theology of the cross altogether. Jesus was so much more than just a social revolutionary who was crucified because he made Rome nervous (although he was that).
Wright roots his theology in the history of Israel, as a nation and as a people of God, something that has become increasingly rare in the theology of the past 100 years. In fact, he uses an interesting metaphor to explain how Christians have not fully heard and understood the message of the Gospels. He talks about the Gospels as a sound system where some of the speakers have become distorted or inaudible, and how we need to get the system in tune so that we can hear them all. The story of Israel is one of those speakers.
The last part of the book explains Wright's view of the cross and what it means, and here's where it would be helpful to have read Wright's second latest book, Simply Jesus, where he explains the ancient view of what a temple was (along with other ancient ways of viewing the world). In that book and in his latest one, he talks about Jesus talking about himself as a new temple, the place where we find God, the place where "Heaven" comes to earth. In How God Became King, Wright reminds us, "And the gospels tell the story of Jesus as the story of a one-man walking temple. . . . Jesus is portrayed by the gospels as a one-man apocalypse, the place where heaven and earth meet, the place where and the means by which people come and find themselves renewed and restored as the people of the one God, the place where power is redefined, turned upside down or perhaps the right way up" (page 236).
And what does that mean for us? Wright calls upon us to become walking temples too: ""Jesus's followers, equipped with his Spirit, are to become in themselves, individually and together, little walking temples, rescued themselves from sin through Jesus (sic) death, and with the living presence of God going with them and in them" (page 247).
What a goal for us!
Wright doesn't give us a laundry list of things to do. In some ways, I was disappointed. In others, I thought it was fitting; after all, there are so many possibilities that we're only limited by our lack of imagination.
So, if you're feeling frustrated by your church's focus on the creeds, on Paul, on the lack of Jesus in your life, here's a great book. Or maybe we should do what Wright suggests: choose a Gospel, sit down, and read it straight through. By doing this, we get a restored sense of the power of these texts. Wright points out that these Gospels are short, shorter than most texts we read. It certainly won't take much time.
But it may transform our lives.