[N.T. Wright] Kingdom and Cross: Putting the Christian Story Back Together

..Obviously, without the resurrection of Jesus the evangelists would never have had a story to tell. Thousands of young Jews were crucified by the Romans. Very few of them are even mentioned in our historical sources, except as a grisly footnote. Even those who think that the evangelists were in fact very clever inventors of large-scale fictions, designed to revive a Jesus-movement that might not otherwise have survived the death (and continuing deadness, so to speak) of its founder, are bound to admit that the resurrection plays the vital role in opening the question up again, so that what looked like defeat was in fact a victory.

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.

Once we put kingdom and cross together in the manner we have, it is not difficult to see how the resurrection goes closely with that great combined reality. It is the resurrection that declares that the cross was a victory, not a defeat. It therefore announces that God has indeed become king on earth as in heaven.

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Posted in Theology