Sunday, July 29, 2012

Simply jesus, by n.t. wright

I read N.T. Wright's 'Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters' several months ago and am just now getting this review up. I'm not exactly sure how I would rate this book. It was another that started out good, then seemed to bog down and I wondered if I would even finish it, but it ended splendidly. At 231 pages it seemed long at times, but could have easily been 3 or 4 times longer.

Part of the problem may be that this was a bit 'heady' for me. It was likely deeper than most of the books I read. Or at least it seemed like it. Part of it may also just be that, while I like Wright's work, he has never been an easy read for me. Whether it's because he's British or that we just don't 'click' for some reason like I do with some authors. But it shouldn't take away from this book. I believe it is an important work. Maybe more important in helping me understand Jesus than I even realize right now. I would be curious how it might read if I went through it again in several months.

To sum up, I thought one of the big messages Wright was trying to get across is that Jesus didn't come to earth and die just for our sins so we could go to heaven. Jesus was about a whole whale of a lot more. It was about ushering in the kingdom. For instance, when Jesus takes his last breath on the cross and says, "It is finished"... he was saying that it was now time for God's kingdom to start reigning. And one of the first orders of business was his own resurrection. So we are now in the period of Jesus' reign, and the point of the church is to allow Jesus to work in us and through us to carry that out in the world.

Several quotes that I especially liked (from later in the book):
  • p. 212 - "The crucial factor in Jesus's kingdom project picks up the crucial factor in God's creation project. God intended to rule the world through human beings. Jesus picks up this principle, rescues it, and transforms it."
  • p. 217 - "All kingdom work is rooted in worship... Christian worship declares that Jesus is Lord and that therefore, by strong implication, nobody else is."
  • p. 218 - "The Beatitudes are the agenda for kingdom people. They are not simply about how to behave, so that God will do something nice to you. They are about the way in which Jesus wants to rule the world. He wants to do it through this sort of people -- people, actually, just like himself... When God wants to change the world, he doesn't send in the tanks. He sends in the meek, the mourners, those who are hungry and thirsty for God's justice, the peacemakers, etc."
  • p. 221 - "...we must never forget that the way Jesus worked then and works now is through forgiveness and restoration... The church is not supposed to be a society of perfect people doing great work. It's a society of forgiven sinners repaying their unpayable debt of love by working for Jesus's kingdom in every way they can, knowing themselves to be unworthy of the task."
  • p. 230 - "Jesus has all kinds of projects up his sleeve and is simply waiting for faithful people to say their prayers, to read the signs of the times, and to get busy."

Yeah... I think this is a good and important book. The idea that Jesus just came to die for my sins so I could go to heaven when I die is such a cheap and short-sighted view not only of Jesus himself, but of Christianity as a whole.

Anyway, it's a bit much for me to try to explain how Wright talked of heaven and earth being both here and now and future... but it was good stuff. I'm glad I read it, though not sure that I would recommend it for just anybody. I do hope to read it again sometime to get a better grasp myself.