Top Ten Quotations from N. T. Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus


Top ten quotations will be a new feature at the blog. I’ve taken the example of Dr. Michael Bird. I’m organizing worthwhile books in Evernote. Since I’m spending one to two hours pulling quotations I might as well leverage that for your benefit. I just finished reading N. T. Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus. Here are my top ten quotations:

1. “When Jesus announced the kingdom, the stories he told functioned like dramatic plays in search of actors. His hearers were invited to audition for parts in the kingdom. They had been eager for God’s drama to be staged and were waiting to find out what they would have to do when he did so. Now they were to discover. They were to become kingdom-people themselves. Jesus, following John the Baptist, was calling into being what he believed would be true, renewed people of God” (43).

2. “Along with this radical invitation went a radical welcome. Wherever Jesus went, there seemed to be a celebration; the tradition of festive meals at which Jesus welcomed all and sundry is one of the most securely established features of almost all recent scholarly portraits. And the reason why some of Jesus’ contemporaries found this so offensive is not far to seek (although not always understood). It was not just that he as an individual was associating with disreputable people; that would not have been a great offense. It was because he was doing so as a prophet of the kingdom and was indeed making these meals and their free-for-all welcome a central feature of his program. The meals spoke powerfully about Jesus’ vision of the kingdom; what they said was subversive of other kingdom-agendas. Jesus’ welcome symbolized God’s radical acceptance and forgiveness; whereas his contemporaries would have seen forgiveness and a God-given new start in terms of the Temple and its cult, Jesus was offering it on his own authority and without requiring any official interaction with Jerusalem” (44-45).

3. “The temple was the greatest Jewish symbol, and Jesus was challenging it, claiming authority over it, claiming for himself and his mission the central place the Temple had occupied. The Last Supper was Jesus’ own alternative symbol, the kingdom-feast, the new-exodus feast. And, just as the Temple pointed to the sacrificial meeting of the covenant God and his people, the sign of the forgiveness and hope, of God dwelling in their midst as the God of covenantal renewal, covenant steadfastness, covenant love, so now Jesus by his double action was claiming that here, in his own work, in his own person, all that the Temple had stood for was being summed up in a new and final way” (84).

4. “The story of the exodus thus included within itself the story of two ways in which the one true God was present and active within the world and Israel: the ‘Shekinah,’ the glory of God ‘tabernacling’ within the tent in the wilderness and later within the Temple in Jerusalem; and the Torah, the expressed will of God for Israel, the law of Moses. In addition, a strong strand in the story was the belief that God’s own Spirit had rested upon and indwell Moses (and some of his colleagues), enabling him to be the leader of God’s people. These three manifestations of YHWH’s presence and rescuing love—God’s presence, God’s law, God’s Spirit, all seen to great advantage in the rescue-story, the freedom-story, that is, the Exodus narrative—mark off the Jewish sense of who their God actually was from the theologies of the surrounding nations” (102-03).

5. “There is no form of early Christianity known to us—though there are some that have been invented by ingenious scholars—that does not affirm at its heart that after Jesus’ shameful death God raised him to life again” (126).

6. “Earle Ellis points out in his commentary that the meal in Emmaus’s is the eighth meal-scene in the Gospel, where the Last Supper was the seventh: the week of the first creation is over, and Easter is the beginning of the new creation. God’s new world order has arrived. The exile is over—not just Israel’s exile in actual and spiritual Babylon but the exile of the human race, shut out of the garden. The new world order does not look like people thought it would, but they must get used to the fact that is is here and that they are not only its beneficiaries but also its ambassadors and witnesses” (164).

7. “I believe we have this as our vocation: to tell the story, to live by the symbols, to act out the praxis and to answer the questions in such a way as to become in ourselves and our mission in God’s world the answer to the prayer that rises inarticulately, now, not just from one puzzled psalmist but from the whole human race and indeed the whole of God’s creation; ‘O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling” (171).

8. “Christ in the power of the Spirit means bringing to our world the shape of the gospel: forgiveness, the best news that anyone can ever heard, for all who yearn for it, and judgement for all who insist on dehumanizing themselves and others by their continuing pride” (184-85).

9. “Learn to be symbol-makers and story-tellers for the kingdom of God. Learn to model true humanness in your worship, your stewardship, your relationships. The church’s task vis-a-vis the world is to model genuine humanness as a sign and an invitation to those around.

As with Jesus’ kingdom-announcement, this will involve retaining sins as well as forgiving them. It will involve declaring that those who persist in dehumanizing and destructive ways of going about they human tasks and goals are calling down destruction on themselves and their world” (188).

10. “The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology and even heaven help us, biblical studies, a worldview that will mount the historically rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and postmodernity, leading the way into the post-postmodern world worth joy and humor and gentleness and good judgement and true wisdom” (196).


Mathew B. Sims is the author of A Household Gospel: Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and a contributor in Make, Mature, Multiply (GCD Books). He completed over forty hours of seminary work at Geneva Reformed Seminary. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship and the project manager for the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Mathew offers freelance editing and book formatting. He is a member at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC.