Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters
by N.T. Wright
HarperOne, 231 pages
reviewed by RUTH HUIZENGA EVERHART
Jesus is Lord!
He has been Lord from the beginning.
He will be Lord at the end.
Even now he is Lord.
Perhaps these words are familiar to you, since they are the last few lines of the “Declaration of Faith” which was commended to the presbyteries and churches for study and use in 1985. It is a poetic document, and as a worship leader, I often use it in worship. We declare that Jesus is Lord. But what does that mean, exactly?
“Simply Jesus” is one of the latest of N.T. Wright’s works to address that basic question. You can see him moving toward the material in his subsequent book, “How God Became King.”
Wright uses the metaphor of a “perfect storm” comprised of three winds to describe first-century Palestine: 1) the Roman Empire, 2) Jewish nationalism and religion and 3) the “divine element,” meaning the way that Jesus incarnated God’s activity on earth.
Using historical fact, Wright paints a compelling picture of how these winds led Israel to expect a Messiah who would overthrow Rome through military conquest and set Israel up as the nation that ruled the world in peace and justice. And then Jesus came as Lord, yet Lord of a different sort.
Many familiar themes are treated. For instance, one chapter is devoted to the theme of Exodus, another to healing and forgiveness, and another to the parables. “The Kingdom of God is like … .” Jesus’ stories showed the world what it looks like when God is King, when Jesus is Lord.
It is obvious that N.T. Wright’s readership includes Christian conservatives, for he says, clearly: “First, it will not do to suppose that Jesus came to teach people ‘how to get to heaven.’ That view has been immensely popular in Western Christianity for many generations, but it simply won’t do. The whole point of Jesus’ public career was not to tell people that God was in heaven and that, at death, they could leave ‘earth’ behind and go to be with him there. It was to tell them that God was now taking charge, right here on ‘earth.’”
The final chapters treat Jesus as prophet, priest and king. “Jesus’ death was seen by Jesus himself, and then by those who told and ultimately wrote his story, as the ultimate means by which God’s kingdom is established.” And now, Jesus is king. The Kingdom of Heaven would not, and does not, arrive by bloodshed and sword, conquest and violence, but through love and service, humility and sacrifice, and even death.
RUTH HUIZENGA EVERHART is a Presbyterian pastor currently taking a break from parish ministry to write. Her nonfiction book “Open-Ended: A Holy Land Pilgrimage” is forthcoming from Eerdmans in February 2013.