Imagine this scenario in Matthew 3…
A wild and controversial prophet emerges after centuries of divine silence. He’s inviting God’s people out into the wilderness to re-enter God’s promised land through the Jordan river in a prophetic act of baptism for repentance from sin. And as he does so, he’s announcing some good news: The Kingdom of God is within reach! And there was someone among them who would immerse the people in the presence of God!
Imagine the ancient memories and hope that John the Baptist was awakening in the people. John was acting out & proclaiming the imminent fulfillment of the deepest longings and hopes of Israel!
The time has finally come! Our exile is ended!
The Kingdom is at hand!! God is returning!
This explosive anticipation was the context into which Jesus stepped and began his ministry. The mysterious and long prophesied Messiah –- a seemingly irreconcilable vision of Israel’s King, the prophet Isaiah’s “suffering servant” (Isaiah 53), the promised “prophet like Moses” (Deuteronomy 18), the Redeemer, the Son of Man, the Son of David, the Son of God –- had come. Beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, this was all to be fulfilled in and through one man –- Jesus…the Christ.
Let’s place all this within the context of God’s story:
As the center and apex of God’s story, everything sovereignly pointed toward the coming of Jesus Christ, in whom all things are fulfilled and on whom the story turns. The full wreckage of humanity collapsed onto the cross in all its fury. Evil, rebellion, sin, and death culminated in the crucifixion of perfect love. But in the face of what looked like ultimate disaster, the fullness of sin and death was absorbed at the cross and then epically defeated at Jesus’ resurrection. The renewal which all creation now anticipates became a reality in Jesus’ resurrection (Rom. 8:22). The story turned.
In light of God’s epic victory in and through Jesus Christ, perhaps it is no wonder that the phrase “personal Savior” never appears in the Bible. In fact, the New Testament puts very little emphasis on individual forgiveness or passage to heaven upon death. You and I were never intended to be the center of the story. God is not concerned with us escaping from creation.
The gospel just isn’t big enough or good enough when individual forgiveness, security, and well being after death are its center. Instead, Jesus is the center. He’s where everything comes together. And he’s MUCH bigger than most people realize:
- Jesus is the quintessential human.
- Jesus is the faithful Israelite.
- Jesus is God incarnate.
- Jesus is the Messiah.
What was accomplished in and through him is FAR greater than most people ever imagine. And we’re being swept into this same story! We’re invited to share in his victory! We’re invited to take part in something much bigger than ourselves. We’re offered a place in a coming, eternal Kingdom –- Jesus’ reign over the New Creation.
(Excerpt from Reimagining Discipleship)