The Story Act Two: the gospel
Last week, we began a two-part message entitled the story, exploring the Biblical narrative known to us as the Old Testament. We saw the unfolding of a grand and glorious love story of God and his people, Israel – a divine drama that began with the calling of Abraham and the promise to give his descendants the Land of Canaan, shower them with blessings, and to bless all nations through them. God kept his promise, made Israel numerous, gave the Land to Israel as an inheritance, and gave them a Law by which they were to live. Blessings were the reward for obedience and curses the consequence for disobedience. One of those curses being destruction at the hands of a foreign nation and exile to a foreign land under the tyranny of the other nations. Israel walked in disobedience and the northern territory was exiled to Assyria in 722BC while Judah, the southern territory was exiled to Babylon in 586BC. While in Babylon, God promised that after 70 years of captivity they would return to the land and that one day they would be restored to their former glory with a king on the throne over a reunited Kingdom under the administration of a new covenant. The narrative of Act One ends with God having fulfilled his promise to return Israel to the Land under the Medo-Persian Empire.
Now this morning, we are going to explore the rest of the story in Act Two: the Gospel. But between the closing of the curtains on Act One and the opening of the curtains for Act Two, there is an intermission. In other words, our OT as we read it closes with the book of Malachi, essentially the last prophetic word from God we have in our canon is about 400 BCE.
What happened for 400 years between the OT and NT and why is it significant?
The rise and fall of nations.
While God’s people were in Babylonian captivity, the prophet Daniel wrote that there would be a series of four Kingdoms that would rise on the scene as political powerhouses. The first was the Babylonian empire, under whom they were captive at the time. Then, as predicted, Babylon fell to the Medo-Persian empire in 539 BC. At that time, God’s people were set free to return to the Promised Land. However, they were still under the reign of Medo-Persia and they did not have a king on the throne. In 330 Medo-Persia fell to Greece under the leadership of Alexander the Great and his conquest to dominate the world. Eventually, Greece fell to the Roman Empire. During the reign of these empires, however, though Israel was restored to the Land, they did not see themselves as fully restored because they were still under the dominion of the nations, the ones they called the Gentiles. According to Daniel, it was during this fourth Kingdom of Rome that the Kingdom of God would come, the time when God’s people would be restored to their former glory and a King would be restored to the throne in fulfillment of the promise to David to always have a descendant on the throne, a time in which God’s people would live under a New Covenant in which their sins are forgiven and God dwells amongst his people in fellowship.
That is what happened during those 400 years and that is why it was significant. The stage was being set for Act Two: the Gospel. Now before we jump into the NT and watch the drama unfold, it is important to note that there is absolutely no way for me to fully communicate to you the beauty, the glory, even the whole story. There were so many promises God gave through his servants the prophets in the OT that we find fulfilled in the NT that it would take weeks and weeks, perhaps years to cover and that is only the portion that I understand. There is so much to the NT, significance of which I can barely scratch the surface.
So as we move into Act Two, the story is set in the context of the Roman Empire, the fourth Kingdom, during the days of Caesar Augustus. So Israel, knowing what the prophets foretold, is anticipating their restoration, their redemption. They are ready for God to raise up a descendant of David to sit on the throne, to overthrow the yoke of slavery known as Rome and be found once again glorious as in the time of the united Kingdom under David and Solomon.
BIRTH OF JESUS (PEDIGREE & PROPHETIC FULFILLMENT)
Opens with genealogy
Descendant of David per 2 Sam 7
Jesus born to a virgin. Thus, real father is God, son of God per 2 Sam 7.
Born in Bethlehem to fulfill Micah 5:2
Some seem to think this Jesus is the Messiah. So many signs were pointing to yes; this is the guy.
JOHN THE BAPTIST
Then, in fulfillment of the last two chapters of the prophet Malachi, a man named John the Baptizer came preaching in the desert of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” This was also he who was spoken of in the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
The Baptism of Jesus
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
CALLING OF THE DISCIPLES A NEW ISRAEL
New 12 as the foundation of a new Israel.
JESUS’ MINISTRY (healing & miracles)
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.
He heals leprosy, the deaf, mute, blind, calms storm, walks on water, turns water to wine,
Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis,[g] Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
One of his miracles was to feed 5000 with just a few loaves and fish . The people at that time were ready to make him king by force. Knowing their hearts, Jesus withdrew from the crowds. Later when Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT JESUS – CONTROVERSY (MESSIAH OR BLASPHEMER?)
While Jesus’ miracles and teachings were on one hand growing a large following, on the other hand there was a growing number of those opposed to Jesus, namely the religious leaders and their followers.
People were looking for a military campaign against Rome to overthrow the supposed enemy and restore the Israel of Old (Jesus was clearly not into this for He came to bring about a different kind of Kingdom, not built with human hands)
Jesus is teaching both moral teaching and parables about the Kingdom. He is speaking as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the Law. This teaching is consistent with the Law of Moses, and yet there were points at which his teaching was at odds with tradition. (people like their traditions and when you challenge long-held views or those held by the general consensus, you’re asking for trouble)
Jesus was not one of those who had formal religious training with the experts of the Law (he was a nobody and nobody likes a nobody; especially the religious leaders who were at least in their own eyes, somebodies – in short, they were totes jelly)
Hostility grew between Jesus and the religious leaders as they sought to trap him in his words but could never seem to do so. Not only could they not trap Jesus, he flipped it on them, trapping them with their own words and then downright slaying them with his words like one of the prophets of old whose words began “Thus sayeth the LORD.”
God’s people had always seen the enemy of God and his people as the nations – in their day Rome. Jesus is showing that the true enemy is not just the nations who reject God, but even those of Israel who reject God’s word that was made flesh in Jesus.
Matt 23 – brood of vipers, snakes, how will you avoid being condemned to the fires of Gehenna?
John 8 – you are not sons of God, or sons of Abraham; you belong to your father the devil
The religious leaders downright reject him and wield their power to sway others, refusing to allow Christ followers in the fellowship.
It seemed, however that the two points of greatest contention with the religious leaders came with:
Jesus’ claim in so many words to be God in the flesh and
His promise to destroy the Temple
The religious leaders conjure up an elaborate plot to have Jesus arrested on false pretenses. Jesus has one last meal with his disciples. At one point Judas, one of the twelve, slips away to lead the religious leaders to Jesus at which point he is arrested, mocked, beaten, and crucified.
DEATH, BURIAL, RESURRECTION, PENTECOST
Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection was the fulfillment of prophecy, the most acute of which is probably Isaiah 53. Now remember that this was written about 700 years before Jesus was born.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b] 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life[d] and be satisfied[e];
by his knowledge[f] my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,[g] and he will divide the spoils with the strong,[h] because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Jesus was put to death on the cross to bear the burden, the guilt of sins he did not commit, but paid the penalty of all who would trust in him. Then after his death, he rose on the third day. He appeared to the disciples, spent 40 days with them, opening their minds to understand the scriptures, and teaching them further about the Kingdom.
He promised them that he would send the Holy Spirit to empower them and equip them for ministry, which came upon them one day at Pentecost. After this, they proclaimed boldly the good news of the kingdom.
The apostles preached the good news first in Jerusalem, then in all Judea, and then to Samaria.
There was, however, still opposition from religious leaders.
Saul is one on these religious leaders who zealously persecuted the church. He was going from house to house dragging off men and women and putting them into prison.
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.
God saved Saul and made him the apostle to the Gentiles. God made Saul the instrument who would bring about that which he most feared and despised.
God was now including Gentiles into this covenant community – something Israel was quite resistant to at first. Not only were those who were descendants of Israel being cut off from the people of God for unbelief, but Gentiles who did not descend from Jacob were being brought into the household of God.
Saul, who is also called Paul (Acts 13:9) began to travel throughout the Roman empire establishing churches. He and his companions continued to travel abroad to spread the gospel to all nations across the empire.
After Paul established churches, he would travel on to other locations to preach the kingdom there and would write letters to the churches that contained teaching about life in the new covenant. The most succinct synopsis of the gospel message can be found in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians.
1 Cor 15:1-4
1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
The Gospel hinges on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
Gospel is that the Kingdom had come and that Jesus was the promised son of David, son of God who would sit on the throne of a new and heavenly Jerusalem, ruling over a new covenant people of God. That new covenant people is not restricted to flesh and blood descendants of Abraham, but rather, as Paul says to gentiles in
Gal 3:26-29 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
WHERE ARE WE IN THE STORY?
The time during which the NT was composed, the period of 40 years from 30 to 70 AD was essentially an overlap of the ages, the OC was obsolete and fading, it was the last days of OC Israel and the dawn of a new age, the age of the NC. That OC was completely done away and the New fully ushered in in AD 70.
Just before his death, Jesus promised that he would come in the glory of his father in that generation, destroying the land and the temple, much like the Father had accomplished through Babylon about 600 years earlier and this time, who better to do it than Rome. Those who believed Jesus and his word could escape to the mountains but those who trusted in themselves, the religious leaders, and the temple itself would remain in Jerusalem only to be besieged by the Romans and either die of famine, the sword, the fire, or be taken as slaves into exile, for in AD 70 the rebuilt temple was set ablaze and God vindicated His son Jesus, showing who was right. Jesus was right, not the religious leaders who rejected Him.
This important event marked the:
End of the old covenant age
end of circumcision of the flesh
end of Israel defined by a geographical territory in the middle east and
ethnic lineage from Jacob aka Israel
end of the Temple and sacrificial system
end of the blood of bulls and goats which could never take away sins
end of resting on the seventh day
end of dietary restrictions
end of the types and shadows
time for the substance, the antitype, the spiritual reality to which the shadows correspond
time for all foods made clean through thanksgiving
time for resting in Jesus, our true Sabbath
time for the ultimate sacrifice for sins once and for all, the Lamb of God, Jesus
time for a new temple made up of living stones, the church the people in whom God’s spirit dwells
time for God’s people defined not by race but by grace, Israelites not by ethnic lineage but by faith – born not of a woman but from above
time for a heavenly promised land, a kingdom that is not of this world, but a spiritual habitation not bound by geography
time for circumcision of the heart by the spirit not by human hands according to the written code
time for the New Covenant Age
That’s where the Biblical story ends. But the Story itself, doesn’t end. We are still living it.
We are the NC community of God, the church, citizens of the New Jerusalem, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, where we bow the knee to King Jesus who rules and reigns gloriously. We strive to serve him wholeheartedly walking in obedience not to 613 commands of the Law of Moses, for that was rendered obsolete in Christ. Rather, we live according to the royal law of love, a law that God writes on the hearts of His people under the new covenant. We enjoy God’s forgiveness for sins and our transgressions have been covered, our debts paid by Jesus and his blood shed on our behalf. We are free to enjoy a relationship with God, to have fellowship with Him.
In other world religions, man has to do something to try to merit favor with God or the gods. But as we look at the story of the Bible we find a god who comes after man, a god who becomes human, takes on flesh, and more than that, takes on the punishment that man deserves for sin on man’s behalf. God does the work, not man. God requires nothing from a man in order procure favor with God. The God of the Bible is a gracious, loving, merciful God who extends his grace to all and welcomes all to believe in his son Jesus and to receive eternal life, a relationship with God that invigorates life, that begins here and now and transcends the grave.
So this morning, I want to invite you to be a part of the story. If you have not yet placed your faith in Jesus Christ, I implore you: believe. Simply believe the gospel.
And if you have believed the gospel, I ask that you would do the following:
Fill in the gaps; I shared the story with you – a broad sweeping overview, but there are so many details I have left out that will bless you if you search them out in the Scriptures
Grow in your relationship with God, getting to know him more deeply through prayer and prayerful, devotional reading of the bible
And if you have believed the story, share the story with others, for it is the greatest story ever told of the greatest news for which one could ever hope