We sometimes read the Bible as a series of stories that point us to God. It has been taught as though it’s simply an encyclopedia of “God stories” each with its own moral. When we view the Bible as one continuous story, we have presented in Genesis 3 the problem, or the conflict of the greater narrative.
The Old Testament provides a series of acts that never quite lead to the final resolution. There is also a lot of supplemental information in the Old Testament that can cause us to lose sight of the narrative. These earlier acts help to demonstrate how God works and what salvation looks like.
The writer of Matthew assumes that his readers know all of those stories. For many, the Messiah they’ve waited is the one who would bring the final resolution to the problem. Matthew’s assertion is that Jesus is the final solution.
What was the problem? Humans were moved to a state of separation from God and as a result were no longer His image bearers.
We often attempt to address the cause of the separation without addressing the separation itself. We were separated because of sin. The Law was given to give definition to sin, but it did not solve the problem of sin or of separation. We live in a state of separation.
I think of it as dimensions. In the beginning heaven and earth were able to coexist, but then there was a separation and now they are two separate dimensions. Heaven therefore is not someplace in the clouds, rather it is “here.” The resolution to the problem of separation was to open the door to that other dimension and allow heaven to spill into earth.
Heaven is not just a place to go to when we die. Heaven is the place where God rules and reigns, where we are no longer encumbered by the knowledge of, or the battle between, good and evil. It is the place where we have peace and Jesus came so that we could experience it in this life. It is the Kingdom of God that Jesus talked about, the realm where God is King.
I just finished reading a book by N.T. Wright called Simply Jesus, and he had the most fascinating take on this story and it’s so perfect to come into after reading about the Fall.
In the Fall, we were introduced to Satan. We intelligent people often struggle with the concept of an actual devil being, but Jesus acknowledges him, so let’s assume that Jesus was right.
In the garden, the serpent has victory and the world is altered as sin becomes the dominant force. In the wilderness, Jesus has victory over the serpent.
Jesus was anointed at his baptism, though not recognized as king, much like David was anointed while Saul continued to live and reign. Jesus had this first victory in the wilderness, like David having had his victory over Goliath.
The foe shifted from the giant and the power of armies to Satan and the power of sin. Jesus won. A new era began in that wilderness.
Jesus is King.
Jesus went from his baptism to the wilderness, much like the Israelites went from crossing the sea into the wilderness.
The Israelites whined about their hunger and God provided manna; Jesus fasted even though he could have turned the stones into bread. Jesus is the bread of life.
The Kingdom of Israel fell because of wicked kings who pursued selfish ambition; Jesus knew how God’s Kingdom was going to established, which we’ll continue to explore as we move through Matthew. Jesus would later be greeted as the king when he entered Jerusalem.
The Israelites continually tested God’s patience with their idolatry, assuming that as long as God’s presence remained in the temple, He would save them; Jesus chose not prove God’s ability to save. We also see that “earth” was in a state where Satan had the authority to confer a title to Jesus, the separated, sinful state.
In the garden, the humans were given dominion as part of carrying God’s image; that was lost in the Fall. Whether you believe in a person of Satan or a force of sin or whatever, the earth fell under its dominion. Satan was offering Jesus a title and a kingdom without the heavy price that was to come.
The restoration of Creation began with this reversal of the original sin. The first people chose to “become like god,” Jesus set aside being God to open the gate.
John the Baptist was put in prison for calling out Herod for divorcing his wife and taking his brother’s wife. There was a fear of unrest and rebellion and Jesus was going to become the kind of leader that might stir up those concerns and draw the wrong kind of attention. Eventually that’s what happened, but he had things to do first.
Matthew is making his case that Jesus is the fulfillment of what had been promised, his contemporaries would have known those scriptures and it would have piqued their interest.
What did Jesus preach? Repentance and that the kingdom of heaven was near.
The space where God reigns is breaking into this world, so repent and be right with God.
What does it mean that the Kingdom of Heaven (or God) is near? Does it mean it’s coming soon or that it is actually in close proximity?
I’ve share this with some of you before… I think of it like Pokémon Go! The Pokémon are near, they’re here with us, but we can’t see them without the app. We have to download the app and actually use it to see them.
We live on the other side of Jesus in the anno Domini “taken from the full original phrase ‘anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi’, which translates to ‘in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ’.” *
Just as previous cultures dated their years by the reign of their kings (In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Daniel 1:1) we live in (roughly) the 2019th year of the reign of Jesus Christ.
The Kingdom is near.
Jesus begins his public ministry and calls his first disciples: Peter, Andrew, James and John. The fact that these men were out fishing tells us a few things: they were probably older than typical rabbinical disciples. Andrew could have been apprenticing under his brother and James and John, since they were with their father, may also have been in the apprentice stage. This is helpful only because we often assume that they were grown men, but they could have been teenagers.
Remember that, in the beginning God gave the dominion to the humans. To Israel, God gave the responsibility to be His light in the world. God’s “plan” has always been to empower us to do His work, to be His image and light.
With the calling of the disciples, God is doing a new thing. He is stepping in and showing us what to do.
The disciples weren’t priests or rabbis, they were fishermen. They probably had been trained in the Torah, so they knew the (really knew) the old stories. Now, they were going to become part of the story.
What does it mean to become part of the story?