With all the talk about Jesus going around today, N. T. Wright in Simply Jesus adds to the conversation through his unparalleled knowledge of Scripture and culture of the original hearers of the gospels. Readers from our century and culture can easily put modern understandings into the gospels and distort Jesus’ words and actions. Wright, in Simply Jesus, attempts to correct these distortions.
Examples of these distortions include: that the primary message of the gospels 1) is all about a man showing himself to be God, 2) about a way to go to heaven, or 3) about a leader of a new religious movement. Wright shows that the gospels’ primary message is that God has become king. Simply Jesus complements and adds to what Wright has written in “How God Became King“.
What does, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” mean? Wright proposes that it isn’t just waiting around for Jesus to come back, blow up the world, and start over to fix everything; nor to live a separate and detached life from the evils of the world; nor is it attempting to recognize God’s work in the world and to join in and do it with Him; nor is it looking for a new word from God that goes against the current power systems of the world.
The unexpected message is that God reigns now as King and He extends His kingdom through human beings. The church is the body of Christ, carrying out God’s work in the world. In Acts 1, the disciples ask Jesus if his kingdom will now be established. Jesus replies that they are to be witnesses to the His Lordship to the ends of the earth. The church, through the kingdom attitudes (Matthew 5) of being poor in spirit, merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers, is used by God to extend His reign across cultures to the ends of the earth. He will continue His reign until He puts all enemies under His feet. Wright invites the church to join God in His project to restore creation to its original purpose.
I would highly recommend this book. Wright’s analysis and insight provokes any New Testament reader to go deeper in thought and study of the Gospels.