Thursday, July 06, 2017

The Day the Revolution Began, by NT Wright #4

WrightI am continuing reading through, for my New Testament devotions and study, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion, by N. T. Wright. This post will begin the discussion of part 3 of the book which looks at the meaning pf the crucifixion as revealed in the New Testament. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 8, New Goal, New Humanity, begins section 3, The Revolutionary Rescue, which focuses on the New Testament witness to the meaning of the cross and salvation. Chapter 8 focuses on Luke-Acts to see how Jesus and Luke redefined and refocused the goal of the Old Testament promises on to the person of Christ and on to the new community formed as the Spirit indwelt and empowered believers. Jesus' acts, in a very earthy and practical way, brought in the kingdom, defeated the forces of evil and enabled God's people to be the vehicle for God's kingdom coming on earth "as it is in heaven." They also enabled the promises of Israel to be expanded to all the nations. The church then is to function as a worshiping and witnessing community, announcing to the world that "the LORD reigns" and forgiveness of sins and membership in this community is available to all.

At the heart of it all is the achievement of Jesus as the true human being who, as the “image,” is the ultimate embodiment (or “incarnation”) of the creator God. His death, the climax of his work of inaugurating God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven, was the victory over the destructive powers let loose into the world not simply through human wrongdoing, the breaking of moral codes, but through the human failure to be image-bearers, to worship the Creator and reflect his wise stewardship into the world. 148

Acts insists that the long-awaited liberation had happened through Jesus and the Spirit, that the powers had been overthrown by the power of the cross and the word of God, and that the powerful Presence of the living God had been unveiled not in the Jerusalem Temple, but in the community of believers. Wright, 161

(The Early Christians) believed themselves to be living in the long-promised new world in which God was sovereign in a new way, in which Jesus had already been enthroned as Lord. They found themselves called to live and act as worshippers and witnesses, as the royal priesthood. And they believed that all this had happened, had been made not only possible but actual, because of what happened when Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross. Wright, 168

In chapter 9, Jesus's Special Passover, Wright uses all four gospels and Acts to show that Jesus revealed the meaning of the crucifixion and resurrection in terms of a new Passover. That is God was bringing in the New Covenant, defeating all the powers of evil by taking their violence and death into himself, ending the exile and fulfilling the promise that Israel would bring God's covenant blessings to all the nations. He was making God's kingdom come on earth as it is heaven. This energizes and directs the church to be involved in this same mission, but with the same cruciform shape in which Jesus did it.

We must remind ourselves that for a full account of “atonement”—as we have seen, more of a complex word than we often recall—we need to speak of resurrection, ascension, the Spirit, the life of faith, the ultimate resurrection of the dead, and the renewal of all things. 169

We can see at last how to rescue the central elements of early Christian “atonement” theology from their own pagan captivity. At the center of the whole picture we do not find a wrathful God bent on killing someone, demanding blood. Instead, we find the image—I use the word advisedly—of the covenant-keeping God who takes the full force of sin onto himself. 185

This, then, is what we find about Jesus himself. He announces God’s kingdom coming on earth as in heaven. The obvious symbol for this is Passover, and Jesus chooses Passover as the moment to state in symbol and word that Israel’s God is now at last rescuing his people from the dark powers that had oppressed them. 192

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