Kingdom or Cross

"In regards to the gospels, we have forgotten what the main thing is."
N.T. Wright in "How God Became King"

I have begun to read N.T. Wright's book: "How God Became King".  Its premise asks a question that I have struggled with for some time.  That is, is the gospel (literally good news) of Jesus, revealed in the four canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) that same as what we consider the gospel today?

In the classic creeds of the church, there is an emphasis on the atoning work of Jesus' death for our personal salvation and justification.  This formulation relies heavily on Paul's letters to the Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews (although the authorship of the book of Hebrews is contested).  This understanding of the gospel is thoroughly Biblical (I Corinthians 15:1-5).  It is focusing on the death and resurrection of Jesus and its work to establish an eternal link to God.

The controversy, is not whether that formulation of "the gospel" is Biblical, but whether that gospel is the central theme of the life and teachings of Jesus himself.

It seems to me that we (Western, Protestant, Evangelicals) come into reading the gospels with a bias based upon the creedal understandings of the church that emphasizes his death and resurrection, but not his life or teachings.

Why is that important?   It is important because the main thing of the gospels may be different than the main thing of the church.  When Jesus described the good news in Mark 1, he describes it simply as "The Kingdom of God is at hand".  That was based upon a present reality, an in-breaking of God into the history of humanity demonstrated by the incarnational presence of the Son of God.

What I think is needed is a reconciliation in our understanding of two powerful realities: The Kingdom and the cross.  The Kingdom represented by Jesus life and his initiation of the way, the truth, and life.  The Cross representing Jesus death and resurrection, his atoning, justifying, and sanctifying work.  It can not be the cross over kingdom, or kingdom over cross, but Kingdom as manifest by cross.

I think we, like NT Wright, should wrestle with what exactly Jesus meant by the good news and how to make the main thing the plain thing, and the plain thing the main thing!

God bless

Pastor M Traylor