Generally, I need to know the ending. If I’m reading a book, that’s a bit different. (Actually, not much. If I get into the last half and the pace accelerates, I really want to know what’s at the end and occasionally I peek.) But if I’m in a conversation and someone needs to tell me a conclusion, I really want them to get to the conclusion.
But if we miss the story… we miss what gets us to the conclusion. That is N.T. Wright’s point in just about anything he writes. He won’t let a reader rush to the end. He has to develop the line of reasoning because it is all vital.
In our western rush to get to the conclusion, we ask, “Why did Jesus have to die? Why did it have to be the crucifixion?” Then, we want a Twitter-length answer.
In the West we’ve ended up with an atonement theology that is incomplete, according to Wright? Why? Because we haven’t let the story develop. We just want a verse or two from Paul and off we go.
Wright develops the line of reasoning because the gospels develop a line of reasoning. The gospels should be a primary place where we develop a theology of the crucifixion, but that takes too long. So, we skip the story, the narrative, and we go straight to the cross event… and get lost as to WHY this happened. So, where do we look? Paul. Wright’s contention is this: Why not look BACK to the Gospel?
The Gospel narrative is key because in itself the Gospel story is picking up a narrative. Wright’s contention that the world of Jerusalem has as its narrative the Book of Daniel, especially Daniel 7. The Gospel writers take that underlying narrative and weave in the story of Jesus including the crucifixion to deliver a more FULL picture of who Jesus is and WHY the crucifixion is so important. That would include the story of Passover, which is when all this occurred and most atonement theologians miss.
The narrative directs the readers of the Gospels to the understanding that Jesus is the Messiah, “whose inaugurated rule will overthrow the rule of the powers of the world. It will, in other words, be the new Passover.” (N.T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began)
How will this happen? Again, it is paying attention to the narrative (and reading Wright’s book fully because this next statement is a shocker and I don’t have space for the full context).
“…it will achieve this (overthrowing the rule of the powers of the world) by putting an end to sin, which as we have frequently seen means the ending of exile and the return of YHWH.” (My emphasis added.)
In Wright’s argument, the crucifixion is what brings liberation. THAT is the end of the exile. Freedom is here.
Quite simply… read this book.