When what you need is not what you expect

Monday Musings for February 01, 2020

Good morning, Musers,

Jesus was an enigma: he went around healing people, yet he did not want to draw attention to himself (Matthew 9:30). Well, the first thing that pops into my head is, how could he not? Then I remember that he lived in a world where news only traveled person-to-person. As such, it was easier to keep a lid on things than it would be today.

But here’s what makes him an enigma: he came to establish the kingdom of God in a new and vital way (Mark 1:15) … so keeping a lid on just who he was would work against God’s purposes.

The first problem he faced was Israel itself. Over the centuries, God’s people had gradually blown themselves off course — and there was no way to “fix” this without challenging the religious establishment. And if that were the gig, having no less a person than the Messiah showing them their faults should have carried the day — or you’d think that would have been the case.

But the plot thickens: God had no plans to restore Israel on Jesus’ first advent. Instead, he planned to accomplish a more fundamental part of his salvific program: Jesus… this “supposed” Messiah… had to suffer, die and be the atoning sacrifice for all people — not just the Jews.

But this part of God’s salvific plan was communicated largely through shadows (Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 10:1). The fact that the Messiah must die did not exactly leap out of the Old Testament’s pages. But even if they somehow "got” this, the Jewish Scripture had much more to say about Israel’s glory. So, what would you cling to if you were a first-century Jew?

The Old Testament did have some hints about this Messianic atonement. Isaiah 53:11 mentions the “suffering servant,” but with no explanation. It also contains biblical “types” — specialized symbols that required an antitype to interpret (John 3:14; Romans 5:14). But the Old Testament Jews had no exposure to — nor an explanation of — Jesus Christ as that antitype. So, who could blame them for missing this?

I realize that this concept is messy because of the Jewish/Christian transition, but here’s the thing: if the Jewish nation was convinced that the Messiah had come, Jesus would have received the wrong kind of attention from the wrong kind of people. They would have lifted him on their shoulders and carried him to Jerusalem — expecting him to defeat Rome and establish the kingdom! To say that Jesus did not meet those expectations is an understatement.

Now, Jesus was obviously sent by God (John 3:2). No one could perform the works he did unless God was with him — and wouldn’t the Messiah do these kinds of works when he came? I’d say yes — and many individual Jews said yes… but most of them rejected Jesus because “the package” that was Jesus did not contain what they wanted. Here’s what I learned.

I rarely get what I want until I want what God wants. Frankly, that takes a lot of practice. But there are a lot of Gentiles (including me) who are going to get what they want (eternal life with God) because Jesus did not give the Jews what they wanted! We have to learn how to want what God wants — and that’s a process. We must grow both in knowledge and in faith.

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