Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters, by N.T. Wright surveys the historical background of Jesus and presents our Savior from a variety of angles. There are a few features that make it worthwhile.
The Emphasis on the Kingdom of God
Wright’s focus on the kingdom of God is refreshing as he promotes an all-ready, not yet framework. For instance, he adds, “The Beatitudes are the agenda for kingdom people. They are not simply about how to behave, so that God will do something nice to you. They are about the way in which Jesus wants to rule the world.” He continues, “The Sermon on the Mount is a call to Jesus’s followers to take up their vocation as light to the world, as salt to the earth – in other words, as people through whom Jesus’s kingdom vision is to become a reality.”
The emphasis on good works is refreshing component that emerges in Wright’s eschatological framework: “In the New Testament, ‘good works’ are what Christians are supposed to be doing in and for the wider community. That is how the sovereignty of Jesus is put into effect.”
Rejecting the Platonic Vision of Heaven
I especially enjoyed Wright’s frustration with the so-called Platonic vision of heaven that is embraced by so many evangelicals. In many ways, he picks up where Randy Alcorn left off in his magnificent work, Heaven. Wright helpfully notes, “Heaven in biblical thought is not a long way away from ‘earth.’ In the Bible, ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’ overlap and interlock, as the ancient Jews believed they did above all in the Temple … Most people in today’s Western world imagine that ‘heaven,’ by definition, could not contain what we think of as a solid, physical body. That’s because we are Platonists at heart, supposing that if there is a ‘heaven,’ it must be nonphysical, beyond the reach of space, time, and matter.”
While much of the work in Simply Jesus is helpful and encouraging, as a premillenialist, I found the ammillenial eschatological framework interesting but not very helpful, in the final analysis. Wright has a way of making his readers think, especially readers that disagree with him. His writing is winsome, thought-provoking and worthy of a careful read.