I love the way the man thinks and writes. I love the way he writes. I love the way he challenges my own thinking and introduces me to new ideas. His book, The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is, is a good example of all the above. As the the book's title and jacket notes say, it is an exploration of who Jesus was and is, drawing on the author's "commitment to both historical scholarship and Christian ministry." He deftly fills in the necessary background information in the early chapters ("The Challenge of Studying Jesus," "The Challenge of the Kingdom," and "The Challenge of the Symbols") before launching into a portrait of Jesus that both confirms the central tenets of the historical faith and challenges the sloppy thinking, talking, praying, and practice of which many of us are guilty. His insights (and, to be fair, perhaps inferences) about the first-century Jewish mind, culture, and expectation in the book's central chapters ("The Crucified Messiah," "Jesus & God," and "The Challenge of Easter") alternately broaden, deepen, shatter, and shift the reader's understanding of who Jesus is, what he said and did, and what he calls us to be and say and do. His final chapters ("Walking to Emmaus in a Postmodern World" and "The Light of the World") are beautiful, moving, and inspirational in presenting the Christian's multi-faceted commission to be for the world what Jesus was for Israel.
As I usually do in an N. T. Wright book, I highlighted numerous passages, too many to mention here, but I will share just a few of my favorites:
“We believe the Bible, so we had better discover all the things in it to which our traditions, including our ‘protestant’ or ‘evangelical’ traditions, which have supposed themselves to be ‘biblical’ but are sometimes demonstrably not, have made us blind” (N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus, p. 17).
“Bearing God’s image is not just a fact, it is a vocation. It means being called to reflect into the world the creative and redemptive love of God. It means being made for relationship, for stewardship, for worship--or, to put it more vividly, for sex, gardening, and God” (N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus, p. 183).
“Do not despise the small but significant symbolic act” (N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus, p. 188).
“The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture” (N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus, p. 196).The Challenge of Jesus did more than drive me to highlight and take notes. It drove me to the Bible, and ultimately closer to Jesus himself, "in wonder, love, and praise."