Act Four, Part Two: Jesus – The Fulfillment of the Human Vocation

Act Four, Part 2: Jesus – The Fulfillment of the Human Vocation

 Several weeks ago, as we were looking at the end of Israel’s story in the Old Testament, we noted how the Old Testament drew to a close with the expectation that Israel would have to be delivered from the consequences of her sin through great suffering. We pointed out that a great mystery surrounded all of this because it was not all together clear how all of this would develop. Some thought Israel as a whole would have to suffer, while others thought it would only be a small remnant within her. Whatever the expectations may have been, no one expected what eventually did happen–that God himself would take on human flesh and bear that suffering for them.

With this in mind, I want to come back to another expectation that built near the end of the Old Testament period. Along with the idea that Israel would be delivered through suffering, there was also the idea, strongly presented in the writings of the Prophets, that God would act in such a way as to correct the injustices of the current created order. In this way God would bring in a new era of peace, beauty, prosperity, and righteousness. How this would happen was once again a mystery. That it would happen was a promise of God.

All this allows us to begin to see how Jesus is the climax to the story of the Bible. Jesus fulfills both of the expectations that develop near the end of the Old Testament. Jesus himself would bear the suffering that Israel was supposed to bear because of her sin and disobedience, but through Jesus’ death, and especially through his resurrection, Jesus now becomes the first person to gain the indestructible life that is being promised to God’s people in the age to come.

How does Jesus do this? By being what human beings were always intended to be.

At this point it is important for us to remember the story we are following in the Bible told as a six Act play. The story is about God’s creation of humanity to be stewards of creation in God’s image. They are to bring God’s wise and loving order from the Garden of Eden to the ends of the earth, and the principle way they are to do that is by being obedient to God. However, human beings quickly failed to live up to his noble calling. Rather than being obedient to God, they chose their own way, thus colluding with the forces of chaos and disorder that were enemies of God’s good creation. Every human being in the history of the world has participated in this disobedience.

Every human being, that is, except one. That one, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth. In the strange mystery that allowed him to be both God and man, as a human being, he was faithful to the Father from beginning to end and lived the life in relationship with God that all human beings were called to live. That is why, after all of the forces of evil colluded in his suffering and death, the Father raised Jesus from the dead, thus vindicating his life as the one true life. The Father then crowned Jesus, as a human being, as Lord over all of creation, thus taking the place over the created order that human beings were always intended to have from the beginning.

God has a special plan in all of this. Jesus is not intended to be a “one off.” He is supposed to be “the first among many brothers.” What does this mean? It means that what God has done for Jesus, in placing him over all of creation, he will eventually do for all of his children who are brothers and sisters of Christ. Having completed his good work in us, we will join Jesus to take our rightful place over creation that was always intended for us. We will “reign with Jesus” forever and ever over a renewed heavens and earth. This is the great destiny that awaits those who have given their allegiance and trust to Christ. It is the whole purpose of this creation story called “the Bible.”

Which brings us back to the more direct question of how Jesus brings Israel’s story to its intended climax. What we find out in the New Testament, which was hidden for thousands of years, was that it was always God’s plan to allow Israel to fulfill its purpose through Jesus. When God promised Abraham that his “seed” would bless all the nations of the earth, he apparently never intended to convey that the entirety of Israel would fulfill this purpose. Indeed, it was impossible for them to do so. But God used Israel, through the means of the law, to prepare them to be a people capable of receiving his Son into the world. It was God’s Son who would fulfill all the requirements of the covenant…it was God’s Son who would fulfill all the requirements of the law…and it was God’s Son who would bring a blessing to every person on earth, if they are willing to receive it.

What is this blessing that he brings? In a word “salvation.” Or we might called it “redemption.” Or even “reconciliation.”   The point being, because of our sin in thinking we could go our own way apart from God, we have separated ourselves from God and his ultimate goodness. Somehow that relationship has to be restored or it means ultimate doom for us. Thankfully, God is merciful. Rather than condemning us to what our actions would rightfully deserve, he has authored a way for us to be “saved” from our doom by being “reconciled” back to God. Not based on our goodness, but based on the goodness and rightness of Jesus Christ.

What this means is that we have been “redeemed” to fulfill the purpose God always intended for us, which is to live and reign with him. That process begins now as we learn to bring our life and everything in our influence under his will, but it will ultimately be fulfilled in the coming age when God will banish all evil and finish the process of redemption. This is what the Bible calls “salvation.” How does one have this “salvation”? It begins very simply…you put your trust in Jesus rather than in yourself. You trust him to save you, and you trust him to teach you how to truly live. The Bible gives us plenty of instruction in that regard. Once you have made that decision, you repent of your own sinful ways that you have been pursuing, you are baptized in water as a way of identifying with his death, burial, and resurrection, and you begin to let Jesus remake your life.

There is plenty more to say about this, but for now it will simply be enough to consider whether or not you are willing to put away your own will to learn his. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a fast process, nor is it initially easy. But what we must all see is it is the only way to find the peace and joy our souls long for. We were made for this, and God will help us every step of the way. In Christ he will not hold our sins against us, but will gently guide us to a better way.

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