The Gospel Writer's Story: Plot Line 2
Last month, I indicated that the gospel writers have woven together four plot lines in order to tell the whole story of Jesus. The first plot line is that Jesus completes Israel’s story because in Jesus, Israel’s exile finally comes to an end. This brings us to plot line number two which is closely related to our first plot line.
The church has long excepted that Jesus is God in human form. This is why we say that Jesus is fully human, fully divine. Yet, what needs to be remembered is that Jesus is not just any God, but that Jesus is Israel’s God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the one and only creator God. Down through the history of the church, there has been some who have wanted to disconnect Jesus from the story of Israel, even going so far as to simply remove the Old Testament from our Bible. Thankfully, the church has not accepted such a radical proposal, because the gospel writers will not let us do so. The gospel writers remind us that it is Israel’s God who, in Jesus, returns to his people just as he has always promised. When we turn to Mark’s gospel, we read about the coming of John the Baptizer, who announces the coming of Israel’s Messiah. Mark quotes the prophets Malachi and Isaiah to show that this announcement was in keeping of God’s promise to return and bring an end to Israel’s exile. Later in his gospel, Mark tells us the story of Jesus stilling the storm, which harkens back to Psalm 107, which teaches us that it is God, Israel’s God, who stills the storms. Matthew does not have a long birth story about Jesus. Nevertheless, in chapter one, we learn that Jesus will be called Emmanuel, which means, God with us. Then, when we move to the last chapter of Matthew’s gospel, we hear Jesus as he tells the disciples that he will be with us always to the close of the age. This means that “God with us” has now become “Jesus with us”. In Jesus, Israel’s God has comeback to be with his people and will now be with them forever. If we think about this in the context of Psalm 23, the words, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” is transformed so that it is God saying, “I will now dwell with my people forever.” In the nineteenth chapter of Luke’s gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the Ten Minas, as a way to explain what was happening as he was making his way to Jerusalem. By the end of that same chapter, as Jesus finally enters Jerusalem, he weeps over the city because the people do not recognize the moment of God’s visitation. This was the time when God, in Jesus, was coming back to see how the people of Israel had been doing with their centuries-old commission to be the light to the nations. Finally, in John’s gospel, he opens with the same three words that we find in the opening chapter of Genesis, “In the beginning.” In this same chapter, we learn that the Word is God, Israel’s God, and that the Word has become flesh in order to dwell with God’s people. This is another confirmation from the gospels that Jesus is God, Israel’s God, who has come to us. This second plot line is similar to the first one and while we need to keep these two plot lines woven together, there are two more than need to be added as well. Next month, we will explore plot line number three.