Simply Jesus 3

Simply Jesus 3 November 21, 2011

It is Tom Wright’s contention, in his new book Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters, that Jewish kingdom movements had two integral features: a battle and the temple. Tom examines those two themes in the Gospel records about Jesus.

First, the battle: “it was a different sort of thing, because it had a different sort of enemy,” and here Tom examines “the satan” in the Bible. There is so much battle with “the satan” in the records about Jesus that it has to be taken not only as an element but significant (Mark 1:13, 27, 34; 3:11-12, 22-27; 5:1-20; Luke 10:18; 13:16; 22:31; John 13:2, 27).  To be sure, we may struggle with this stuff but that doesn’t mean they (or Jesus) did. That battle seems to have two stages: an earlier stage (the Temptation) and a final victory. The satan’s victory is the cross, but the victory was not to last.

How central are the battle and the temple to most of our understandings of Jesus? How central are space, time and matter? Do you think these ideas are supersessionistic or continuous with Judaism?

Second, the temple. Here Tom focuses on the “cleansing of the temple,” which is really a royal declaration of God’s judgment on the temple and its authorities.

This leads Tom into one of the more creative portions of this book: Jesus reshapes space, time and matter. Tom’s big idea is that God is becoming king in and through Jesus as his earthly representative. The temple was the place where heaven and earth met, where God’s presence overlapped. But Jesus redefined space by contending God’s presence was wherever Jesus was. “Jesus was, as it were, a walking Temple” (133). That Temple was a signpost but now that God was present in Jesus, the Temple was coming to an end. It became redundant, it was criticized as a place of economic oppressions, and it was a place of violent ambition.

As for time. Sabbath was the place where God’s time and our time met with God’s temporal presence, and Jesus saw himself as superior to the Sabbath. He is the walking, celebrating, and victorious Sabbath.

And as for matter. Big one here: new creation renews matter. The key element of this is Jesus’ miracles. The material world is being transformed. Matter becomes a more visible glorious presence of God. Another important indicator of this theme: the transfiguration of Jesus in Matthew 17:1-8.

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