The People of God: Part 6 of 7 Jesus and the Calling and Gathering of Israel and the Nations

Mark 1:14-15 states, “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time is fulfilled,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Why is the time fulfilled and what is the good news? Throughout the history of Israel, there was the hopeful expectation of a future coming of a kingly figure chosen and anointed by God to redeem and restore his people. This messianic figure was believed to usher in a new era in the history of the people of God. He was to establish God’s sovereign reign and fulfill God’s mission of restoring all things and creating a new people who will love, worship and serve him.

Luke 4:16-21 depicts Jesus entering the synagogue and reading a passage from Isaiah which states, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me, to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (v. 18-19) Then, Jesus says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21). Jesus declares that he is the promised messiah and his life and ministry supported his claim. However, God’s people were perplexed because he did not fit the image of a typical royal king, and he was not crushing the Romans. Rather, he was beaten and crucified, put to shame by the oppressors of Israel.

What was going on? The promised serpent head crusher (Gen 3:15) was fulfilling God’s redemptive and restorative mission as the suffering servant (Isa 53). Jesus fulfilled what the people of God throughout history could not. He was a perfect, devoted and faithful servant to God and a blessing to the nations. As a result, God did not let Jesus rot in the grave, but rather God raised him from the dead with a resurrected body. Jesus is the firstborn of the resurrection. He is inaugurator of the resurrection people of God.

The Gospel of John narrates a scene where Caiaphas prophesied about Jesus, and then the author of the Gospel of John commentates by saying that “He [Caiaphas] did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (John 11:51-52). The prophecy by Caiaphas was a glimpse of what God was up to through the life and ministry of Jesus. Through Jesus, God was calling all nations, races, people and tongues to come to him. This is the gospel message, that God calls the world to come to him through Jesus’ redemptive life, death and resurrection, and he gathers from Israel and the nations those who by faith in Jesus respond to the call. He creates one people where “[t]here is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). Those who are in Christ are connected to God’s people of the past, they are “Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal 3:29).

Moreover, God, through Jesus, enters into a new covenant with his people. At his last supper, Jesus links the new covenant with his broken body and shed blood (Matt 26:28; Mark 14:24) and the Letter to the Hebrews explains that Jesus is “the guarantee of a better covenant” and that “…Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” In chapter 8, the author of Hebrews quotes in full Jeremiah 31:31-34 which is the passage that was mentioned above concerning the promise of a new covenant. With this quote, the author of Hebrews connects the death of Jesus with the promise of a new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah. Therefore, according to Charles H.H. Scobie, “[t]he Christ event, focused in Jesus’ death on the cross, inaugurates the promised new covenant, a new relationship between God and people.”[1]

Similar to the description of the people of God throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, this new people of God, the Church, is described as “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet 2:9). Much like the Israelites, God chooses and calls a people to be the Church and “they become his people by responding to his gracious acts.”[2] The Church has encountered God through Jesus—the God-man, and they belong to him and to one another as the people of God. Thus, the Church should embrace their belonging as God’s people, and since they “have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49), they should devote themselves to worship, service and mission.

[1] Charles H. H. Scobie, The Ways of Our God: An Approach to Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2003), 496. [2] Harold Stauffer Bender, These Are My People: The Nature of the Church and Its Discipleship According to the New Testament (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1962),14, quoted by Scobie, The Ways, 491.

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