Why Jesus? – Part Nine

(If you’re just joining us, you’ll need to start with Part One for the series to make sense.)

Over the last two weeks we worked our way through Israel’s defining story – quickly at first, and then slowing down as we approached the time at which Jesus was about to enter the narrative. We concluded on Friday with a summary of the story as it stands in the closing years of the first century BC:

God’s image-bearers are still in exile, despite being back in the promised land. They were looking forward to a time when the exile would truly be over and all of God’s promises would be fulfilled – a time when they’d be able to bear God’s image the way he always intended.

This week, we change gear to look at how Jesus fits into the story: how he presented his message and ministry as the fulfilment of Israel’s hope – the logical next chapter in the story – as well as how he corrected and challenged some of their expectations as to how that would happen. We start today with how Jesus announced the end of Israel’s exile and the coming reign of God.

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Catch-up Friday

(If you’re just joining us, you’ll need to start with Part One for the series to make sense.)

As we go through Israel’s story this month, each week we have “catch-up Friday.” This gives you three days over the weekend to catch up on your readings, as it’s important to read each part of the story.

Answers to yesterday’s questions

But today, here are Tom Wright’s answers to yesterday’s questions:

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Why Jesus? – Part Eight

(If you’re just joining us, you’ll need to start with Part One for the series to make sense.)

Last week we looked at Israel’s defining story up until the exile in Babylon, which we can summarise:

God’s original image-bearers rebelled, but God acted in mercy to choose for himself a people who will be his image-bearers, showing the world what life is like when lived the way God intended. But God’s people again rejected his “Plan A,” asking for a human king (like everyone else had). So God graciously gave them one, firstly Saul (the typical human king, who was a failure) and then David (a king after God’s own heart). “Plan B” started well, with great ideals, but by the end of Solomon’s reign, that, too had failed. Unjust and idolatrous Israel had been exiled to Babylon – away from the land, away from the presence of God, and under foreign rule.

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Why Jesus? – Part Seven

(If you’re just joining us, you’ll need to start with Part One for the series to make sense.)

Over the past two days, we’ve seen how Israel had a hope for the future. When God acted to restore them, they’d return to the promised land, throw off the yoke of foreign rule and oppression, and experience a time of peace, prosperity, healing, and justice. Furthermore, they’d be given the ability (“a new heart”) to live as God’s image-bearers they way God had always intended.

We also looked at the timing: a first return from exile in which they reoccupy the land, and a second, fuller return when all of God’s promises would be fulfilled. And by the time of Jesus, the expectation was that this would happen any minute now!

Today, we start by looking at the question: How?

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Why Jesus? – Part Six

(If you’re just joining us, you’ll need to start with Part One for the series to make sense.)

Yesterday, we arrived at the point in the story in which “Plan B” (God’s people with a human king) had failed. Unjust and idolatrous Israel had been exiled to Babylon – away from the land, away from the presence of God, and under foreign rule. How were they going to fulfil their calling to be God’s image-bearers to the world?

But God’s people hadn’t given up hope. In Deuteronomy, God promised them that if they repented while in exile, he would gather them back. In Isaiah, they were told that this return from exile would be a time of healing, peace, justice, and self-rule. In Ezekiel, they were promised a new heart – the indwelling Spirit of God – who would enable them, finally, to live as God’s image-bearers under his rule. But when would all this happen? That’s what we’re asking today.

(And if you’re a long-time Christian who’s heard this big story many times before, today is where you might find a new detail in the plan that often gets overlooked.)

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Why Jesus? – Part Five

Last week we began looking at the question why did Jesus live? (You need to start from the beginning of this series for it all to make sense.) To do this, we’re telling Israel’s story to see where Jesus fits in. So far, God’s original image-bearers have rebelled, but God has acted in mercy to choose for himself a people who will be his image-bearers, showing the world what life is like when lived the way God intended. But God’s people again rejected his “Plan A,” asking for a human king (like everyone else had). So God graciously gave them one, firstly Saul (the typical human king, who was a failure) and then David (a king after God’s own heart). “Plan B” started well, with great ideals (we saw them in Psalm 72), but by the end of Solomon’s reign, things had started to go wrong…

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Catch-up Friday

As we go through Israel’s story this month, each week we’ll have “catch-up Friday.” This is to give you three days over the weekend to catch up on your readings, as it’s important to read each part of the story.

But for those who are up-to-date, there’s some extra reading and a few questions. You might recall from yesterday that God’s “Plan B” involved Israel’s king leading the way in being God’s image-bearers to the world: they were to execute justice in Israel, and be a light to the nations around. Part of this plan was the temple, which David’s son, Solomon, would build. Read Solomon’s prayer he prayed at the dedication of the temple (in 1 Kings 8) and answer the questions below.

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Why Jesus? – Part Four

On Monday we began looking at the question why did Jesus live? (You need to begin with that post for all this to make sense.) To do this, we’re telling Israel’s story to see where Jesus fits in. So far, God’s original image-bearers have rebelled, but God has acted in mercy to choose for himself a people who will be his image-bearers, showing the world what life is like when lived the way God intended. The only problem is, they messed up again – so that by the end of the book of Judges, they’re mired in idolatry and immorality, living by their own rules, not God’s:

Judges 21:25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.

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Why Jesus? – Part Three

On Monday we began looking at the question why did Jesus live? (You need to begin with that post for all this to make sense.) To do this, we’re telling Israel’s story to see where Jesus fits in. Yesterday, we saw how we were created to be God’s image-bearers, at one with God, each other, and creation. But because we wanted to be our own gods, we rebelled against this set-up – and are now suffering the consequences: out of fellowship with God, at odds with one another, and in a struggle with creation. Yet all is not lost. Because today, we see God begin his plan to put things right.

Footnote: some of the material over these few days follows Scot McKnight’s outline of Israel’s story, from his book The Blue Parakeet.

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Why Jesus? – Part Two

Yesterday, we started on a month-long quest to answer the question: why did Jesus live? You really need to read that post to set the scene for what we’re doing. Because today, we begin telling Israel’s story, in order to work out what where the story was up to – and what Israel was expecting to happen next – when Jesus arrived. And to tell that story, we need to go back to the start of the Old Testament, and look at some of the key passages that give the framework for Israel’s story.

Footnote: some of the material in the next few days follows Scot McKnight’s outline of Israel’s story, from his book The Blue Parakeet.

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