Friday, October 04, 2013

The Devastating and Challenging Message of the Four Gospels

Monroe County
At Redeemer we preach through the biblical texts, week after week, year after year. My passion is to build, in our church, a Jesus-literate culture.

It took us 6+ years to preach chronologically through the 4 Gospels. Then through Acts. Then 4 years through the letters of Paul, highlighting Pauline Christology. Now we've begun the book of Hebrews. This Sunday is Hebrews message #2 - Hebrews 2:1-4.

The core message of Jesus is: "Turn, for the kingdom of heaven is here." The hermeneutical key to the Real Jesus is: the kingdom of God (aka the kingdom of heaven). The term "kingdom of God means: the rule, or reign, of God. The historical and existential claim is that Jesus is King... over all. To follow after Jesus is to come under his redemptive, powerful, loving, healing reign. This is the "gospel"; this is the "good news."

If you want to read extrabiblically about this two excellent books are Scot McKnight's The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited,  and N.T. Wright's How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels. And, of course, the best place to begin is to pick up your Bible and slow cook in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Then read Paul's letters, through the lens of the life of Jesus.

Wright's great concern is to bring us back to the intent and heart of the whole thing. "My case throughout this book, then, is that all four canonical gospels suppose themselves to be telling the story that Paul, in some of his most central and characteristic passages, tells as well: that the story of Jesus is the story of how Israel’s God became king. This is how, in the events concerning Jesus of Nazareth, the God of Israel has become king of the whole world. This is the forgotten story of the gospels." (Wright, N. T., How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels, Kindle Locations 743-746)

Wright writes:

"What I miss, right across the Western tradition, at least the way it has come through to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, is the devastating and challenging message I find in the four gospels: God really has become king— in and through Jesus! A new state of affairs has been brought into existence. A door has been opened that nobody can shut. Jesus is now the world’s rightful Lord, and all other lords are to fall at his feet. This is an eschatological message, not in the trivial sense that it heralds the “end of the world” (whatever that might mean), but in the sense that it is about something that was supposed to happen when Israel’s hopes were fulfilled; and Israel’s hopes were not for the demise of the space-time universe, but for the earth to be full of God’s glory. It is, however, an inaugurated eschatological message, claiming that this “something” has indeed happened in and through Jesus and does not yet look like what people might have imagined. That is the story the gospels are telling. 

But if this is so— if God has become king of the world, through Jesus— then nobody can stay indifferent. This is the point that the four gospels are making, but that the creeds appear completely to ignore and that the Reformers and subsequent “evangelical” movements have likewise normally ignored in their eagerness for “the gospel” of personal salvation. The church has gone on reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but without any clue from those great creedal and Reformed traditions as to what they are actually saying." (Ib.)