Surprised by Hope (N. T. Wright), was published in 2008. I came across it about a year later and was so impacted by it that I immediately put together a series of messages on the resurrection and the profound truths that flow from it. It wasn’t that I didn’t have some understanding of these things prior to the book, but Wright presented the resurrection in a comprehensive, interlocking way that united the biblical story in ways I’d never heard nor imagined. We moved in 2010 and I shared the same series (give or take), with the congregation I’m now with. I also learned of another minister in the area who was doing the same thing.
This week I’m talking about the death of Jesus and yes, next week I’ll have something to say about the resurrection. In preparation for that, I was looking over the notes I had taken from the book—a Word document ten pages long w/1.15 spacing. That in itself was a note taking record for me. And although that shows how influential the book has been to me, that’s not the point. The point is that when I looked over these notes, I was overwhelmed (again) by all the book had to say; how wide-ranging it is in its implications and applications. I also noted how much more there was for me to absorb despite the fact I’ve plowed through it a few times.
As anyone who reads much knows, there are very few books that continue to speak to you like this. I’ve lived long enough that a lot of books I come across now are simply rewrites of books written a decade or two ago but now out of print. These “new” books are simply this generation’s version of whatever their message is. Then there are a fair amount of books with useful things to say, but you could sum them up in a few sentences. Books like Wright’s don’t come along very often. That’s why I thought I’d share some quotes I find particularly compelling.
- If resurrection doesn’t mean the literal body but some type of spiritual body, then there wouldn’t be an empty tomb.
- . . . the resurrection of Jesus offers itself . . . not as an odd event within the world as it is but as the utterly characteristic, prototypical, and foundation event with the world as it has begun to be. It is not an absurd event within the old world but the symbol and starting point of the new world.
- Instead of talking vaguely about heaven about and then trying to fit the language of resurrection into that, we should talk with biblical precision about the resurrection and reorganize our thinking about heaven around that.
- The world has already been turned upside down; that’s what Easter is all about. It isn’t a matter of waiting until God eventually does something different at the end of time.
- This, as we have seen, is what the resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit are all about. They are designed not to take us away from this earth but rather to make us agents of the transformation of this earth.
That’s just a little taste of what the book has to offer. It offers insight, encouragement, and transforming hope—all anchored in the resurrection of Christ!