The Gospels make up around 46% of the New Testament and the four writers are dedicated to retelling Jesus’ story in different ways to illustrate major themes and points. My hope with this series is to expose the major themes within the gospels that would have been more apparent to first century Christians than they have been to us. The structure of this series is based off of N.T. Wright’s book How God Became King where he wrestles with the question of “What is the Gospel behind the Gospels?” I highly recommend this book if you’re looking to expand your personal study. He uses the imagery of listening to a symphony through a four-speaker surround sound system to illustrate how we’ve approached the Gospels. To get the best experience out of listening to the symphony, the speakers need to be balanced so the sound is full and clear. Some speakers are turned up too loud and other speakers have been turned off all together. As we go through this series together, my prayer is that you will come to a deeper knowledge of who Jesus is, what he did in his life, what his death, burial, and resurrection meant, and what that means for the church today.
The First Speaker – The Gospels tell the story of Jesus as the climax to Israel’s story.
As we drew to the end of the Old Testament, the narrative seemed open-ended and unfinished. The OT narrative leaves one searching for an ending. Each of the gospels provide their own versions of how Jesus is the One in whom that story finds its proper ending. We’ve often read the Bible in a way that deems the story of Israel as unimportant or insignificant. Jesus didn’t come to do something new but to fulfill something old. This speaker needs to be turned up a bit.
Monday – John the Baptist goes out to the edge of the wilderness, standing at the Jordan, and calls Israel to remember their story. Go back to Deuteronomy 6 where Israel is standing on the other side of the Jordan about to cross over into the Promised Land. They are charged with the task of passing the faith down to their children so that they will not forget who the LORD is. We’ve read their history. They do not do well with this. John goes back to the Jordan and calls them to repentance. He calls them to remember the LORD. Read the passages below and spend some time meditating on each passage
Yesterday in Bible class, we talked about what it means for your identity to be shaped by your baptism. This is the moment when you received the Holy Spirit and God looked down on you and said “you are my child. With you I am well pleased.” How would this assurance and affirmation shape the way you live your life if you were to take it seriously?
- God called on Israel as His special possession. What kept them from taking their relationship with God seriously?
- As John calls Israel and us, to come back to the Jordan and remember our identity as God’s people, what can we learn from Israel’s story as we see it lived out perfectly by Jesus?
Tuesday – Israel’s story is a micro story of the story of the world. God chose us in the creation and the creation rebelled against Him. God then chooses a broken people to redeem His broken creation.
- How does John tie in the story of Israel into the beginning of his Gospel?
- John combines Israel’s history and creations history in a climax of the Word being made flesh. What does it mean for you that God would become part of His own creation to then redeem it?
- How does the rejection of the Word parallel with Israel’s rejection of God?
- Jesus comes to you and says, “Follow me!” How would you respond?
Wednesday – God chooses Adam and Eve as His people. When tempted with independence from God, they choose poorly. God chooses Israel as His people. When tempted with independence from God, they continually choose poorly. Jesus is taken out to the wilderness and is tempted. Jesus proves to be the true Israel when he shows himself to be the faithful and obedient Son. What does it take to break the cycle of choosing poorly?
- What two things does Jesus receive at his baptism that you also receive at yours?
- What is Satan challenging in Jesus at the beginning of every temptation?
- What do you see as the root of each of the temptations and how they connect to Israel’s temptations in the wilderness? How to they connect to struggles in your own life?
Thursday – Jesus is the climax of Israel’s story. While the people may have been back in the land for the last few hundred years, and a temple had been built, God’s presence had not filled the temple. The people believed the coming messiah would restore the Temple, bringing God’s glory back to it. Jesus’ actions clearing the Temple had more powerful symbolism than Jesus simply being angry. It is this action that is the last straw taking him to the cross. John’s gospel has this action at the beginning to make everything you read in his gospel is read through that action. The other gospel writers follow Jesus’ Temple action with questions about where his authority comes from. Jesus then tells parables that are condemning to the Jewish leaders. Read those parables through the lens of what Jesus did in the Temple.
- What is the most significant part of the Temple? Why is there no Temple today?
- The Temple is the place where heaven and earth come together, when God’s glory fills the Temple. What does it mean that Jesus is the Temple? Where is the Temple now?
- Why do the people reject the servants and then the heir? We live in God’s vineyard, what kind of farmers are we? In what ways do we reject the servants (and heir) sent to us?
Friday – If you want to take more time for today’s devotional, go read all of the resurrection accounts, pay attention to the differences, and ask what the author might be highlighting about Jesus. I love reading the different resurrection accounts but today I want to specifically focus on Luke’s narrative.
- When did the disciples recognize Jesus? What does this have to do with fulfilling Israel’s narrative?
- V32 and 45 both talk about understanding Scripture. What Scripture(s) are they reading and need to understand?
- Are these Scriptures the individual passages quoted throughout the NT or are they referring to all of the Torah and the Prophets?
- Why is important for them to understand these Scriptures correctly about Jesus?
- When we take the Lord’s Supper, we reconnect with the story of Israel re-imagined in and through Jesus Christ. How does your regular participation in the Table each week help you see Jesus more clearly? How does participating in the Table make Jesus more clear in how you live?