"Mary treasured all these words," Luke's Gospel says, "and pondered them in her heart." There is much to think about. For N.T. Wright, Chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, Jesus was born into a "perfect storm" in the Middle East.
The "gale of Rome" heralded Caesar as "Lord"; the high-pressure national hopes of Israel told of God's people triumphing over their oppressors; and the "hurricane of God" "cut clean against the national narrative": "God called Israel, so that through Israel he might redeem the world; but Israel itself needs redeeming as well."
Wright tells the story of these storm systems colliding in the life of Jesus Christ. In lucid, though-provoking chapters, he ponders the meaning of the Gospel narratives of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. "Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters" ($24.99 in hardcover from HarperOne; digital editions for Amazon Kindle; Barnes and Noble Nook; and from Google e-books) focuses on what Wright calls the "New Exodus."
If the Exodus story told of the liberation of the children of Israel from a tyrant and a new vocation of being a blessing to all the nations (though that didn't quite work out), the New Exodus is about Jesus himself completing God's project.
"The presence of Israel’s God would be the presence of Jesus himself, coming to Jerusalem as the embodiment of Israel’s returning God, the fulfillment of Isaiah 40 and 52. This, Jesus believed, is what it would look like when Israel’s God came back to Zion. It would not be ... the pillar of cloud and fire ... but a young man on a donkey, in tears, announcing God’s judgment on the city and Temple that stood on the cosmic fault lines, establishing his own still incomprehending followers as its surprising replacement, and then going off to take upon himself the full weight of evil, the concentrated calamity of the cosmos, so that its force would be annulled and the new world would be born" in the resurrection.
Our human vocation, says Wright, is what Luke means by "witness": “tell someone else that Jesus is the world’s true Lord.”
Go tell it on the mountain.