The Cross and the Kingdom of God (N T Wright)

Recently the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) published an article written by N T Wright, entitled “The Cross and the Kingdom of God,” which can be found by clicking here.

Below are a few great quotes from the article.

“To suffer, and then come into his glory” – in other words, cross and kingdom. The very word “Messiah” already implies kingdom; now it is clear how that kingdom is attained. This is how the story of Israel comes to its climax: God called Israel to be the means of rescuing the world, so that he might himself alone rescue the world by becoming Israel in the person of her representative Messiah. In other words, the Messiah is the one through whose representative work Israel’s God will accomplish his purposes for Israel and the whole world. As the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel repeatedly demonstrate, the “Messiah” is a role made for God’s own use. The purpose is to establish the kingdom; the means is the obedient suffering of Israel’s representative. This role, and the accomplishment of this purpose, are tasks which only God himself can undertake. Here is the mystery at the heart not only of the New Testament, but of the Old as well.

What we call “incarnation” thus lies at the heart of the kingdom-and-cross combination that, in turn, lies at the heart of all four gospels. This means that one entrenched reading of the Creeds, and of the whole Christian tradition at this point, has to be challenged. The “divinity” of Jesus is not to be separated from his kingdom-work, his cross-accomplished kingdom-work. It does not, as a dogma, “come away clean.”

This highlights, too, the distortions that result when people construct an “atonement-theology” that bypasses the gospels. God himself will come to the place of pain and horror, of suffering and even of death, so that somehow he can take it upon himself, and thereby set up his new-style theocracy at last. The evangelists tell the story of Jesus in such a way that this combination of Israel-vocation and divine purpose come together perfectly into one. This, I suggest, is the reality behind the later abstractions of “humanity” and “divinity” – the humanity is the Israel-humanity, the divinity is the divinity of Israel’s God.

The resurrection, in short, is presented by the evangelists not as a “happy ending” after an increasingly sad and gloomy tale, but as the event which demonstrated that Jesus’s execution really had dealt the death-blow to the dark forces that had stood in the way of God’s new world, God’s “kingdom” of powerful creative and restorative love, arriving “on earth as in heaven.”

That is why the bodily resurrection matters, in a way that it never quite does if one is purely interested in a kingdom “not of this world.” The resurrection is, from Mark’s point of view, the moment when God’s kingdom “comes with power.” From John’s point of view, it is the launching of the new creation, the new Genesis. From Matthew’s point of view, it brings Jesus into the position for which he was always destined, that of the world’s rightful lord, sending out his followers (as a new Roman emperor might send out his emissaries, but with methods that match the message) to call the world to follow him and learn his way of being human. From Luke’s point of view, the resurrection is the moment when Israel’s Messiah “enters into his glory” so that “repentance and forgiveness of sins” can now be announced to all the world as the way of life.




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