Well, we made it. We are finally into the New Testament. Only 5 weeks left and we will be at the end of our study. Whatever shall we do then? Hm… For now, we are going to pick up in Part V: Understanding the New Testament: Session 1: Jesus the Messiah. Follow along with me: Multiply!
Between the Testaments
When do you suppose God began working on a plan for the redemption of mankind? Was it after Noah and the flood? Or perhaps when Israel failed? No, God began working on a plan of redemption immediately after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. And He continued to work on that plan throughout the Old Testament. In the last session, we talked about how God made 2 distinct promises to Israel: 1) God would send a Messiah; 2) God would establish a new covenant.
You can imagine what Israel must have thought while they were in exile. Where was God? Has He forgotten about us? Has He abandoned us entirely? God had not forgotten Israel, but Israel must have had their doubts. They were no longer in their land. The temple and Jerusalem had been destroyed. How were they to keep a relationship with God if they were not even allowed to give sacrifices to Him in the temple as He had commanded them?
Although many Jews still had hope God would restore them, they had differing ideas on how He was going to do it. This lead to divisions, different groups were formed: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Zealots, and the Essenes. Each had a very different view of what God’s kingdom was going to look like, and the each missed the mark. No one was expecting how God planned to established His kingdom.
Many times we separate the Old Testament and the New Testament as if they have nothing to do with each other, but if you look closely the connections are there. The last two verses of the Old Testament say this: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Mal. 4:5-6 ESV). And then in the New Testament they are echoed in the voice of the angel to the priest Zechariah who was going to have a son who would: “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:16-17 ESV).
Getting to the Point
The prophet who came in the spirit of Elijah was John the Immerser. His purpose was to prepare the world for the Messiah. That Messiah was Jesus, and He was nothing like anyone expected.
Discussion Question #1: Read Mark 1 slowly and thoughtfully. As you read, consider what it must have been like to have seen Jesus say and do these things. What stands out to you from reading this description of Jesus?
Jesus the Messiah
Israel was waiting for the Messiah, the King from the line of David. Messiah means “chosen one”. Jesus was the person through whom God planned to enact His plan of redemption. “So important is the New Testament claim that Jesus is the Messiah that John wrote his gospel to prove this one point: ‘These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’ (John 20:31)” (254).
Discussion Question #2: What are some of the answers people in our culture give to Jesus’s question “Who do you say that I am?” Why are these answers inadequate?
A Man, but More Than a Man
Even though Jesus did some amazing things, it is important to realize that He was a real man. He got hungry (Matt. 4:2), he got tired (John 4:6), and He cried (John 11:35). Jesus’s humanity was never more apparent then in His sufferings surrounding His death on the cross.
However, He was also more than a man. Jesus was fully God. He did not being His existence with His birth on earth. The first chapter of John makes it clear that Jesus is eternal, He has always been. He was the only person who ever lived a sinless life, obedient to death to the Father.
Discussion Question #3: Why is it important to understand that Jesus was fully human? How should this reality shape the way you think and speak about Him?
Discussion Question #4: Why is it important to understand that Jesus was more than a man—that He was, in fact, divine? How should this reality shape the way you think and speak about Him?
The Fulfillment of God’s Plan
While it was pretty obvious to some that Jesus was indeed sent by God, others did not believe in Him and actually opposed Him. Most of these were of the religious groups in Israel. They did not want to see who He really was because the more popular Jesus was, the less popular they were with the people.
Jesus makes it clear Himself that He was the Messiah. In Luke 24:44, Jesus says, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled”. He is pointing out that when the Old Testament writers were describing God’s plan of redemption, they were actually talking about Him.
The Old Testament is full of references to Jesus. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden and God was delivering His curses, He tell the serpent that he would bruise Eve’s offspring on the heel and her offspring would bruise him on the head. He was talking about Jesus. God was also talking about Jesus when He promised Abraham that all the nations of the world would be blessed through him. Everything God promised Israel was fulfilled in Jesus (Matt. 5:17).
Discussion Question #5: Why is it important to recognize that Jesus was fulfilling the promises and prophecies made in the Old Testament?
The Kingdom of God
John the Immerser and Jesus both agreed on one point: the Kingdom of God was here. All of Israel was hoping that God would establish His kingdom once again. Jesus claimed that the time for God’s kingdom to be established was here and the power He held in His life proved His authority to be the One who established it. Jesus didn’t just come to bring peace, He came to restore God’s rule over the world.
Discussion Question #6: Based on what you studied in the session on the kingdom of God in the Old Testament, why is Jesus’s proclamation of the kingdom of God important?
Discussion Question #7: How should the concept of the kingdom of God and the reality of Jesus as the King affect your daily life now?
Life through Death
Jesus did many wondrous deeds, but for many people He was hard to believe in for one very important point: He was crucified as a criminal. They were used to standing behind kings and leaders who lead them in victory. They were not used to their leaders being put to death. They reasoned that He must not have been who they were waiting for.
And yet, the sacrifice had to be made. Jesus had to die so that we could live. Jesus established the new covenant, a second “covenant of blood”. At His last Passover before His death, He uttered these words: “And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood'” (Luke 22:20 ESV).
Discussion Question #8: Carefully read Ephesians 2:1–10 and Colossians 2:13–15. If you are familiar with these passages, force yourself to read them slowly, as though you’ve never read them before. What do these passages say about the significance of Jesus’s death and resurrection?
Discussion Question #9: According to these passages, how should we relate to Jesus?
Knowing Jesus’s story is important, but it is not the most important thing, responding to Jesus’s story is. We must respond to Jesus’s call, the call to follow. Listen carefully to the message proclaimed by Jesus’s earliest followers: “What God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago” (Acts 3:18–21) (264).
Discussion Question #10: Spend some time in prayer. Pray that God would take the truths you have been thinking through and use them to affect your heart. Ask God to help you respond to Jesus appropriately—whether you have never considered Jesus’s call to follow Him or you have been walking with Jesus for many years.
Thank you for joining me for one more week. I hope you have a blessed week!