Simply Jesus 4

Simply Jesus 4 November 25, 2011

The major themes of the Exodus are at the heart of Tom Wright’s new book Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters. But there’s more to say than that: Exodus is at the heart of the entire mission of Jesus. Because this Exodus theme is both cut up into its seven segments (more below) and because Exodus becomes more central, it is fair to say that Simply Jesus takes us beyond Tom’s well-known Jesus and the Victory of God. He puts it all together in this book….

First the seven Exodus themes are tyrant, leader, divine victory, sacrifice, vocation, divine presence, and promised inheritance. This is at the heart of this book.

Second, Tom sketches how three absolutely crucial (to Jesus and to the apostles) figures of the Old Testament illustrate these seven themes and therefore are instances of carrying forward the Exodus project. The three figures are the Servant of Isaiah 40-66, the Son of Man of Daniel 7, and Zechariah’s king, esp as found in the last half of Zechariah. You will have to take my word for it that he has given us an important sketch of exodus themes here.

Third, now the big one: Jesus’ mission is shaped by those same themes, and so I want to quote from what I think is perhaps the crucial paragraph in this whole book. Remember: it’s Exodus, Exodus from Moses through Isaiah, through Daniel, through Zechariah, and now reshaped and reconfigured for a new day in a new way by Jesus — the three-fold storm converging: Rome, Jewish leaders, and the new message about God becoming king in and through Jesus:

I am going to break the prose into sections so it’s easier to display and read (p. 175):

The tyrant would be not the Jerusalem leaders …, not even Rome …, but all the powers of the Accuser, up to and including death itself.

The leader would be, of course, Jesus himself.

The sacrifice, likewise, would be Jesus himself; that, we must assume, is why he chose to make his decisive move at Passover-time, knowing that it would lead to the death of the firstborn, the beloved son, a hint that he dropped in one of his last parables (Mark 12:6-8).

The vocation would be the vocation he had marked out for Israel in the Sermon on the Mount: going the second mile, turning the other cheek, loving enemies, and praying for them even as they nailed him to the cross.

The inheritance would not, now, be a restored holy land, but the whole world, the uttermost parts of the earth, which had been promised to the Messiah as his inheritance and then promised again to the servant as the realm to which he, through his suffering, would bring God’s justice.

And the presence of Israel’s God would be the presence of Jesus himself, coming to Jerusalem as the embodiment of Israel’s returning God, the fulfillment of Isaiah 40 and 52.

[He doesn’t have the divine victory, but it’s got to be the victory over death in his resurrection and beyond.]

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  • Mick Porter

    I’m working through the book right now and it’s excellent – I’ve found his breakdown of the 7 Exodus components to be ready helpful. As Wright has said elsewhere, the timing of Jesus’ death at Passover (rather than Atonement) should alert us to a great depth of significance that may be overlooked otherwise.

  • There’s a good interview with Tom Wright on the Nomad Podcast. You may have missed this UK resource, but it’s well worth a listen.

  • In the NT, I think inheritance becomes ‘a new heavens and new earth’. The weakness of Wright and Wright eschatologically is limiting inheritance to earth. All things in heaven and earth are Christ’s and so ours.

  • Mick Porter

    John, I’ve always heard him as saying that heaven and earth meet – perhaps the emphasis is sounded on earth more forcefully to counteract the popular notion of heavenly disembodiment and the earth being burnt.

    Scot, I notice in chapter 10 that he does briefly discuss the battle and divine victory between Jesus and the satan. He says the initial victory is won in the desert temptation and then completed in Jesus’ death.

  • Scot McKnight

    John, perhaps you see him emphasize earth too much, but for Tom the “new heavens and the new earth” are a whole new creation, a transformation of all that is.

    Mick, yes, very clear in chp 10 he says that. In this big paragraph I quote he doesn’t mention the “victory” and it seems to me it is the death (the result of the battle and more) overcome through resurrection, yes?

  • I wonder whether Wright is taking rather too restrictive an approach to a theme that is far more fluid than he seems to allow for. A number of the clear appearances of prominent Exodus motifs in the Scriptures seem to lack certain of the elements that Wright identifies. I would argue that the theme operates in far too subtle and allusive/elusive a manner to be captured easily through such categories. Also, while Wright’s approach may highlight certain of the broader overarching themes of the larger Christian story, it may be less equipped to alert us to the themes of particular biblical narratives, which may be situated less in broad themes than in particular allusive details in the narration. While Wright’s approach may be useful in some cases, I find it rather too blunt an instrument to deal with the many layered and textured narratives that the Scriptures present us with. While it may serve a rough heuristic or pedagogical purpose, it strikes me as altogether too rigid, and at risk of becoming a structure imposed upon Scripture, blinding us to a lot of biblical examples of exodus, rather than being truly attentive and responsive to the details of the text. I posted some rough thoughts on Exodus themes a few days ago.

  • I remember hearing Dr. Mounce teach that if you took the motifs of Exodus out of the book of Revelation, there would be very little left. I look forward to adding Wright’s insights on the Exodus to that view of Revelation.

  • If Wright means what he says, he’s a Universalist, which is great news!

  • Jerry Sather

    I just finished this book. What I like best is that Wright has stated might be called a “theory of everything” regarding the gospel. I disagree with Alastair in that I didn’t find it overly rigid–there is plenty of room for nuance here and even Wright says all will not agree with him.

    I had an interesting discussion with a colleague who has listened to this dialogue from an Orthodox perspective. They seem to be nodding in agreement. Scot, have you had any feedback from Orthodox folk on the NPP or King Jesus Gospel?

    I am recommending Simply Jesus along with King Jesus Gospel to everyone. Thanks again for this challenge.