Time for another open forum. This time I want us to tackle an issue I’ve been researching for fun a little bit in the last few days based upon the discussion that came up as a result of an old post on ‘hell’. Here’s the question I want to pose for you to play around with: What concept, if any, of the afterlife did the ancient Hebrew’s have? What did they envision happening to the person after death? It would be great if we could interact with a few Old Testament texts and maybe even one or two apocryphal texts from the inter-testamental period. Again, try not make your comments too long so that discussion keeps flowing. So there you go, who wants to put their thoughts down first?
Archive for the 'Israel' Category
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.
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” – Matt. 1:21
Reading the story of Israel is one of endless frustration with the people of Israel. You have this amazing God who time and time again displays his faithfulness to Israel and yet they time and time again stumble and eventually spiral out of control into full blown idolatry. The announcement of Jesus then at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel as the one who will save these Jews from that endless cycle of sin is phenomenal statement by the angel. Jesus is viewed as the ultimate rescuer who will do what no judge, king or prophet could previously do: provide a solution to the sin of ‘his people’. As a gentile being ‘ingrafted’ into ‘his people’ makes that verse a phenomenal verse for me too because if I’m left to my own devices I too will spiral out of control into full blown idolatry. But Jesus has come to rescue! If I get to understand and experience one thing better this year then I hope its that rescue.
In Mark 10:33-34 Jesus predicts his death. Up to this point though in the narrative of Mark he hasn’t mentioned that the Gentiles are going to ‘mock him and spit on him’ and ultimately kill him. The mocking and spitting seems to be drawing on Isaiah 50:6 and it seems that Jesus is marrying the two concepts of ‘Son of Man’ and ‘Suffering Servant’ (something I think that NT Wright fails to do in his overarching view of atonement, the christus victor view – but that’s another blog post altogether).
What I’m interested in though is the specific mention of the Gentiles – why the mention? My initial thoughts are that in the Old Testament Israel’s rebellion and sin was punished by the historical invasions of Gentile nations. I wonder if Mark wants us to pick up on this? Previously in redemptive history Gentiles were used by God to punish sin. Is it not a hint in the text of Mark that Jesus is going to the cross so that sin might be punished and so we have this mention of Gentiles who will, in the langauge of Isaiah, mock and kill the suffering servant? (Has anyone read Peter Bolt’s book The Cross from a Distance – does he pick up on this in that book?)