Before we move on to Scot McKnight’s King Jesus Gospel, I want to first offer a few initial reactions to N.T. Wright’s How God Became King. These are just a few items that kept striking me as I worked through Wright’s proposal for a fresh reading of the gospels.
The Story of Israel
Wright is absolutely correct to pinpoint this particular issue as noticeably absent from the minds of most Western Christians as they read the gospels. Seldom do we understand what the nation of Israel has to do with the person of Jesus. Put another way, we don’t know what the Old Testament has to do with the New. Nor do we know why it matters.
But if we can grasp this connection, it will, at the very least, give us a sense that God has in fact been up to something from the start. Joining the Old Testament with the New Testament will at least give us the feeling that they are meant to be part of the same collection.
In terms of how this might affect our readings of the gospels, it will certainly add richness. Suddenly, all those OT quotations and allusions that the gospel writers (particularly Matthew) give may begin to make some sense beyond, See, the prophets predicted Jesus a long time ago!
But Wright’s point in all this is important, we need to begin to grasp the bigger picture. Israel was elected to be the solution to the world’s brokenness. Yet Israel herself is deeply marred. Jesus is simultaneously Israel’s messiah and redeemer as well as the world’s true king.
A Cruciform Kingdom
And yet that king’s kingdom has a peculiar trait, quite unlike every other kingdom known to humankind. The power of Christ’s kingdom, which is also the kingdom of the Creator God, lies in the crucifixion.
This reality struck me on seemingly every other page in Wright’s text. You cannot separate the kingdom from the cross. Over and over again I was reminded of varied responses Western Christianity has taken to various global and local issues and we’ve left off the table the notion of responding with service, humility, and, ultimately, death.
I’ve witnessed plenty of individuals maintain this attitude to various life circumstances. They’ve been remarkably humble and disrespectful of their own well-being when facing, say, an unfaithful partner or an unjust assault on their business. I’ve watched them meekly wade through deep valleys to find unexpected reversals.
Unfortunately, this seems a rare response, especially in corporate settings.
A Lingering Question: How to Respond?
So. the question remains for me as to how to respond to world problems on a higher level. How can the church respond with cruciform love to the issues plaguing our world? I don’t doubt, on the one hand, that the church possesses Spirit-filled solutions to all sorts of social ills, but I find myself too often reverting, in my own pattern of thinking, to the power-games so often employed by both the Christian right and left.