‘The canonical gospels and the creeds are not in fact presenting the same picture’ (p 11). The creeds (eg Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed) make no mention of what Jesus did or said between his birth and his death. The creeds ignored the central theme of the four gospels; they omit the story of Jesus’ actual life and the meaning this story conveys.
What Wright finds in the four gospels is the challenge that ‘G-d has really become king, in and through Jesus’ (p 27). And Paul repeats the theme: ‘the story of Jesus is the story of how Israel’s G-d became king. In the events concerning Jesus of Nazareth, the G-d of Israel has become king of the whole world’ (p 38).
The key to understanding the New Testament writings is to centre on the cross that allows us to ‘take over the world not with the love of power but the power of love, when the kingdom of G-d overcomes the kingdom of the world’ (p 239).
Key scriptures that emphasize this are the Suffering Servant songs (Isaiah) and Psalm 22. Key components of Jesus’ cross and kingdom motif are that ‘Israel is G-d’s priesthood, G-d as Saviour, Israel as a new community (‘suffering kingdom bringers’), and G-d’s confrontation with Caesar (of whatever generation. In and through Jesus, Israel’s G-d reclaims his sovereign rule over the world; this is not an excuse for triumphalism but the acceptance of a new dynamic: suffering.
Wright presents a powerful treatment of Jesus, who is more than someone who wants us in heaven, or who is the source of nice stories. Cross and kingdom. A political theology.
Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.