ImmerseMessiah NLT - Page 499

T he S t o ries a n d the S t o r y
centuries. Now subjugated by the Roman Empire, God’s people are divided about what to do. Zealous factions advocate violent rebellion. Many
teachers and other religious leaders are urging people to get more serious
about following Israel’s distinctive way of life under God’s law. And those
running the Temple in Jerusalem survive by making compromises with their
Roman overlords.
Israel’s ancient prophet Isaiah had foretold a time when a messenger
would come to Jerusalem proclaiming the good news that God is returning
at last, that his people are being saved. But Rome had its own version of the
good news, and it wasn’t about Israel’s God. The empire’s gospel was about
the great blessings brought by their own powerful leader, Caesar Augustus.
He is, they said, “a savior for us and those who come after us, to make war
to cease, to create order everywhere. The birthday of the god Augustus
was the beginning for the world of the good tidings that have come to men
through him” (from the Priene Calendar Inscription in Asia Minor, ca. 9 bc).
Into this world a child is born in Israel. He is a descendant of King David,
but he comes from a humble family. An angel speaks to his mother, Mary,
before he is born. He tells her that this child will be the long-promised and
long-awaited Messiah, Israel’s King, the One who will fulfill their history.
Remarkably, Scripture’s account of the ministry of Jesus echoes particulars
of Israel’s history.
Before Israel’s Exodus, Pharaoh killed many Israelite babies, but Israel’s
deliverer, Moses, escaped; King Herod also kills many Israelite babies in trying to kill Jesus, but Jesus also escapes. The family of Israel went to Egypt
to survive a deadly famine; the family of Jesus also survives by going to
Egypt. Israel passed through the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land;
Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River before beginning his ministry in Israel.
Israel spent forty years in the wilderness, where they struggled with temptation; Jesus spends forty days fasting in the wilderness and is tempted by
the devil. And as Israel had twelve sons who fathered twelve tribes, Jesus
chooses twelve men to be his closest followers. In all of this, Jesus is reliving
aspects of the ancient narrative of Israel, but now with a different outcome.
Jesus is refreshing Israel’s story and renewing Israel itself—through himself.
In his opening message to the people of Israel, Jesus calls them to be
the light they were always meant to be, announcing the Good News that
something unprecedented is happening in Israel’s story. He demonstrates
in powerful words and miraculous deeds what it looks like when God comes
as King—teaching, correcting, and healing. Jesus is widely recognized as a
rabbi and a mighty prophet in Israel, but the current religious leaders see
him as a dangerous new problem. Jesus critiques their leadership, thus
threatening their positions of power.
This tension between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders rises until

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