We know Jesus was born of a virgin and that he died on the cross and rose from the grave. But what about all that stuff in the middle? What does the life of Jesus have to do with anything? According to N. T. Wright, Christians have neglected all that stuff in the middle (the “missing middle” as he likes to call it). “I have had the increasing impression, over many years now, that most of the Western Christian tradition has simply forgotten what the Gospels are all about” (vii). Who is to blame for such an oversight? According to Wright, the early church creeds and the early church fathers are to blame for having failed to say anything about the life of Jesus. Wright believes this oversight is “the reason why Christians to this day find it so hard to grasp what the Gospels are really trying to say” (12). The early church fathers were so consumed with proving that Jesus is God, and the Reformers were so consumed with Paul’s emphasis on the gospel consisting of what Jesus achieved in his death (atonement and justification), that the church has lost sight of the life of Jesus and what it is all about.
Therefore, a massive, fundamental rethinking about the Gospels is overdue. And here is his antidote: While the creeds were “focused on Jesus being God,” the “Gospels were all about God becoming king” (20). Stated otherwise, Wright’s central thesis is that the Gospels are all about “how God became king—in and through Jesus both in his public career and in his death” (175).
There are several strengths to Wright’s book. First, Wright does us all a favor by taking us back to the Old Testament, demonstrating that the story of Israel has its fulfillment in the person and work of Christ. Wright spends the majority of his book comparing OT texts with NT texts in order to demonstrate how Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, the Savior and King of Israel, by whom God has reclaimed his sovereign reign over his enemies and the nations. However, the Gospels are so shocking because the King who inaugurates his kingdom does so by dying on a cross.