I tend to read my Bible far more critically than I did two or three years ago. Things I’d normally just gloss over as a given I now sit and toy with in my head, second guessing myself as to whether or not some of the foundational things I believe are really there or if they apply to me.
This morning I read Matthew chapter 1. Now in verse 21 an angel tells Joseph that he should name the child in Mary’s womb Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. Now normally that would be a fairly standard thing to read – Jesus has come to save people from their sins - we all know that, but that’s not actually what it says. It says that Jesus has come to save Israel from the national sin and guilt that hangs over them in their constant rejection of their covenant God – well at least that’s how a first century Jew (Matthew’s proposed audience) would have read it. From there my mind jumps into overdrive second guessing my understanding of Jesus’ coming to save people from sin.
So I start asking myself all sorts of questions: Did Jesus come to save everyone from their sins or just national Israel? When the New Testament talks about sin is it talking about the way modern evangelicals talk about it or is it talking about the specific covenantal sin of Israel? All these sorts of questions pop into my head. In the end I had to turn to Acts and read the accounts of Phillip and the Ethiopian and Peter and Cornelius just to be reminded that ultimately Christ’s work does extend to all the nations and all sorts of sin. It was fairly handy exercise for me in the end as my faith in Christ’s work was firmed up yet at the same time I read the gospel story with a bit more historical clarity and integrity. It can seem a bit of a risky exercise but it does yield fruit in the end.