I am reading a thought-provoking book, “How God Became King:The Forgotten Story of the Gospels” by N.T. Wright, and to make a point, he relates a wonderful scene from Peter Shaffer’s play “Amadeus.” There, the cynical old court composer Salieri contrasts his own operas, telling and retelling great tales of legendary heroes but through stale and tedious music, with Mozart’s astonishing ability to take characters off the street and create something truly magical. “He has taken ordinary people,” says Salieri, “ordinary people–barbers and chambermaids–and he has made them gods and heroes. I have taken gods and heroes…and made them ordinary.”
And this is the point that Thomas Wright (an Anglican bishop and esteemed theologian) is attempting to make in his book (How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels). We have succeeded at making the Gospels ordinary, and often all we are given in Sunday sermons is a set of “talking points” or “cliff notes” from the Gospels rather than the words and life of Jesus himself. Sadly, I have to include myself in this indictment.
The purpose of Wright’s excellent book is to suggest that not only have we misread the gospels, but we have made them ORDINARY–we have cut them down to size, we interpret the life out of them rather than setting them free to generate an entire world of meaning in all directions, a new world in which we would discover anew and afresh what it means to follow Jesus.
The main point that Thomas Wright makes is that Jesus came to do MORE than just die for our sins and give us our golden ticket to heaven. For many Christians, that is the sum total of the gospel message, and in that sense, we have not really read the Gospels. Instead, we have emasculated them of all their power and glory into something that exists for our own selfish ends. Unfortunately, that’s how many of us have been brought up to read the New Testament. We read it with the mindset: “What’s in this for me?” “What does God want to do for me?” We make the gospels all about us, and not about Him.
How God Became King, challenges our presumptions and assumptions about the Gospels. The author contends that the Gospels are the story of Jesus as being Israel’s God and Savior, and how he came to establish his rightful place as King of the Jews and the King of kings. He came to earth, incarnated in human flesh, to establish the kingdom of God, which clashed with Caesar’s kingdom as well as the kingdoms of this world, and is still at odds with the kingdoms of man that we are surrounded with to this very day.
Unfortunately, we have “de-Judaized” the Gospels and instead of Jesus announcing that he has come for the lost sheep of the house of Israel as their Messiah, we somehow made it all about us. It’s not really about us, it’s about Him and his proclamation of the kingdom of God as well and his victory over sin and death on the cross, where he secured his rightful place as King of kings and Lord of lords.
In Luke 10, when Jesus sends out the 72 disciples with the instructions to heal the sick, cast out demons and proclaim that the kingdom of God is at hand, he is informing us that this is what he intends for His church today. This wasn’t just a first-century thing, but this is the business of the Father that we need to be about today. Instead, we’ve allowed ourselves to become weighted down with way too much “churchianity.” The 21st century church is not having much impact on the world because surprisingly, we’re not as centered in the Gospels as we might think. We need to get to know our Savior who not only died for us but is reigning and ruling as King of kings, and wants us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Just as we need to go to a chiropractor for an adjustment, where he puts things back in proper place, Wright’s book, “How God Became King ” has given us a theological adjustment, a fresh perspective on how to begin to read the Gospels and see Jesus as coming to establish His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.