I will never read the gospels the same way again after reading How God Became King by N.T. Wright. I am not new to reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but this book helped me to see things in those four books which I have missed in all of my previous reading of them, even as they have been my constant companions for years. And the things it helped me to see are not just trivial matters, like trying to unlock some secret code hidden in these ancient documents, but rather, they are the essence of what all of the four gospels seek to communicate. I am not alone. As he says early in the book, "Despite centuries of intense and heavy industry expended on the study of all sorts of features of the gospels, we have often managed to miss the main thing that they, all four of them, are most eager to tell us."
A subject that runs throughout the book is how Christians manage to deal with the different emphases of the traditional Christian creeds and the content of the story of Jesus' life in the gospels. Other than Jesus' birth, death, resurrection, and ascension, the creeds have practically no mention of Jesus' life, and a straightforward reading of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John leaves no doubt that the things Jesus did in his life (particularly in between his baptism and Good Friday) really do matter. I know no one who denies that explicitly. Yet I know many (and have been one myself in the past) whose theology could skip straight from Christmas to Calvary and not miss anything. Wright's point is that such theology may be consistent with the creeds, isn't consistent with the gospels, and that the creeds and gospels do not have to be separated like that, but can and should compliment each other.
Wright's claim that Jesus becoming king is the point of the gospels may not sound all that shocking to readers upon first glance, though many might think that Matthew is "the kingdom gospel," while the others have their respective emphases. But Wright does a masterful job of showing how each of the gospels is thoroughly a gospel about God becoming king (of Jesus' ancient Israel, and of the world) through Jesus. In order to make sure his argument suffers no injustice, I won't try to summarize it here, but will simply urge anyone who has an inkling to do so to read this book.
I first read Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy in the summer of 2000. The way I live and what I believe has never been the same since. This book by Wright has been part of a Willard-esque revolution in my understanding of the gospel. Much of the point of Willard's message is that we have to evaluate whether the gospel we communicate naturally leads our hearers to become disciples of Jesus, or to become something else, and that if we are to be faithful to the scriptures, our gospel has to be filled with the message of God's kingdom. Even though that concept forever changed my approach to life and ministry, I have always struggled with how all the parts of the scriptures might form a kingdom-centered gospel which naturally leads people into discipleship. This book makes a huge stride in that direction.
Disclosure Statement: If you purchase resources linked to from this blog, I may receive an “affiliate commission.” I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Regardless of whether I receive a commission, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.