Tom Wright’s book How God Became King offers a challenging and revitalising interpretation of the Gospels and creed which emphasises that Jesus is King, the embodiment of God’s kingdom here on earth. To some this is not new. However, Wright’s interpretation focuses on aspects of the gospels that he claims are overlooked by many Christians, who, he claims, skip from the Virgin birth to the crucifixion, missing out the story in-between – the story told by the gospels – the story of how in Jesus God came down to earth to claim his kingdom – that in doing so he crushed the powers of darkness, and the political powers of his day.
Wright’s argument is that by dying on the cross, and by his resurrection, Jesus defeated the powers of this world, and instigated the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. Wright says that God’s Kingdom is not just some heavenly escape from this sinful world – not just a promise of life after death – that, he claims, would amount to gnosticism. For Wright, Jesus’ Kingdom is both here, now, and after death. The Jews were a sign to the nations of God’s justice and power – an indication of God’s character. Jesus is the embodiment of Israel, the Kingdom of God on earth revealed. Jesus won a victory once and for all, and the final victory is his. His death showed God’s love and compassion. The job of the church is to continue to do that – to be active in this world in revealing God’s love, building God’s Kingdom, healing the nations, bringing peace, living in the way of a servant, not a powerful ruler, living according to God’s rules, and not the rules of this world.
In the cross Jesus triumphed over the powers of his age – Caesar, Herod, Pontius Pilate – and inaugurated God’s Kingdom here on earth. It is the job of the church, and the individual Christian to continue that. Christianity is not an escape from the world, but a call to be even more closely engaged with healing this broken world, to carry the cross, as Jesus instructed us to.