We are now a few weeks into the Easter season, at least as far as the “church calendar” is concerned. It has been interesting for me this year, as I’ve tried to think well about the liturgical calendar, to see how different pastors deal with it. Scripture readings for seasons like Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter tend to overlap in weird but interesting ways. The challenge, it seems to me, is to keep the golden thread of the season evident throughout . . . even using it as something of an interpretive lens for stories that might be understood differently at other times of the year.
Still: Easter season. Weeks of rejoicing until the season concludes with Pentecost, which is a celebration itself.
One of the things I appreciate most about the work of N. T. Wright has been his ability to retell a familiar story, emphasizing things that we too often overlook or take for granted (but have been there the whole time). This has been particularly true for his handling of the Kingdom of God. During Lent, Wright did an interview with the folks at Relevant Magazine about the utter significance of Easter to changing everything. He asserts in the article (as well as in his 2016 The Day the Revolution Began) that Romans and Hebrews aren’t the only New Testament books that have something to say about what God is doing with and through Jesus for the salvation of souls. From the article:
But what the four Gospels are doing is talking about the coming of God’s Kingdom. Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” When you look at the crucifixion narratives in all four Gospels, it’s all about Jesus being enthroned as king.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have very different angles on things, but they all converge on this: When Jesus is crucified something happens, and the result is the powers that have locked up the world in corruption, decay and death are overthrown. And Jesus is, from now on, running the show—even though it doesn’t look like it because we have the wrong idea of what power is and how it works.
If we take the New Testament seriously, we ought to see that the crucifixion of Jesus is the means by which God’s Kingdom is actually launched on earth as in heaven—because the powers are defeated, and this new world comes to birth.
Even now, a handful of weeks away from Easter Sunday, such things are easy to put to the side to deal with more “pressing” things. In Wright’s view, though, we ought not walk away too quickly.
Learning to think historically and eschatologically is really difficult for people in our day and age because we tend to think that now that we live in the modern world, we’re it. But the Bible says, “No, sorry: World history turned its corner when Jesus died on the cross and then rose again three days later.”
Every generation has to go on asking itself the question, “How does that then play out in my world in my time?”
You can read the rest of Wright’s interview here. And come back here later in the week for another recent essay about Wright’s thoughts and their implications for Christians and politics.
(image from timeanddate.com)