One of the areas where I really enjoy Wright is when he discusses Jesus, the Kingdom and Jesus' role within the history of God's dealing with Israel. His book, The Challenge of Jesus is one of my favorite books. Here are some of his thoughts that I pulled from his chapter on "Jesus and the Kingdom" from Simply Christian.
Jesus and the Coming of God’s Kingdom
Christianity is about something that happened. Something that happened to Jesus of Nazareth. Something that happened through Jesus of Nazareth. Christianity is not about a new moral teaching. We need to insist that we find in Jesus’ teaching within a larger framework: the story of things that happened through which the world was changed.
We are invited – summoned actually – to discover, through following Jesus, that this new world is indeed a place of justice, spirituality, relationship, and beauty, and that we are not only to enjoy it as such but to work at bringing it to birth on earth as in heaven.
What Can We Know About Jesus?
In Jesus of Nazareth heaven and earth have come together once and for all. The place where God’s space and our space intersect and interlock is no longer the Temple in Jerusalem. It is Jesus himself. This chapter also had some good stuff on the reliability of the gospels and our information about Jesus' resurrection.
The Kingdom of God
“The kingdom of God is at hand.” This announcement was the center of Jesus’ public proclamation. He was addressing the world we described at the end of the previous chapter, the world in which the Jewish people were anxious for their God to rescue them from pagan oppression and put the world to rights – in other words, to become king fully and finally.
What did he mean? The prophet Isaiah, in line with several Psalms and other biblical passages, had spoken of God’s coming kingdom as the time when
a) God’s promises and purposes would be fulfilled,
b) Israel would be rescued from pagan oppression,
c) evil (particularly the evil of oppressive empires) would be judged, and
d) God would usher in a new reign of justice and peace.
To speak of God’s kingdom arriving in the present was to summon up that entire narrative, and to declare that it was reaching its climax. God’s future was breaking in to the present. Heaven was arriving on earth.
Jesus believed that the ancient prophecies were being fulfilled. He believed that Israel’s God was doing a new thing; renewing and reconstituting Israel in a radical way…It wasn’t a matter of the God of Israel simply fighting off the wicked pagans and vindicating his own people. It was more devastating. It was about God judging not only the pagans but also Israel…God was issuing a fresh challenge to Israel, echoing back to his promises to Abraham: Israel is indeed the light of the world, but its present policies have been putting that light under a bucket.
Jesus’ healings were not just for the sake of it. Nor was it just a way of attracting people to listen to his message. Rather, the healing was a dramatic sign of the message itself. God, the world’s creator, was at work through him, to do what he had promised, to open blind eyes and deaf ears, to rescue people, to turn everything right side up.
What did Jesus intend by it all? What did he think would happen next? Why did he walk into trouble in this way? And why, after his own violent death, did anyone take him seriously any longer, let alone suppose that he was the living embodiment of the one true God?