The Big Story #5: God's Son
I think if we’ve been a Christian or going to Church for a while we take this for granted. But for two guys walking along the road after a pretty rotten weekend, they seemed to have no clue. It’s a bit like watching Fight Club or the Sixth Sense for the first time; you watch it having no idea what’s really going on until right at the end the twist reveals all and you’ll want to watch it all over again to see if you can pick up the clues.
For two guys walking onto the next town in the days following the death of their friend, in their grief they didn’t even recognise he was right there before their eyes. It didn’t make sense to them how their hopes and expectations had been shattered in front of them. But then the risen Jesus they had failed to recognise began to explain. Like Poirot or Sherlock solving the crime, Jesus “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). The whole story pointed to and found its fulfilment in Him and it all happened as God had planned it (Acts 2:22-24).
Did you know there are over 300 Old Testament prophecies that find their resolution in Jesus? Prophecies coming from nearly every book from Genesis to Malachi! Paul wasn’t wrong when he said “For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for His glory” (2 Corinthians 2:20).
For this reason it’s no surprise to find Matthew open his account of Jesus’ life and ministry with a long list of names, a list which shows Jesus was a descendant of the greatest king of Israel David and the legendary Abraham. The Gospel of Matthew is noted for being very heavy on the Old Testament fulfilment and for emphasising that Jesus’ fulfilled the promise of the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. Matthew regularly quotes from the Old Testament where he sees Jesus fulfilling messianic prophecies and he provides a comprehensive collection of Jesus’ teaching presented in 5 sections (first being the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5-7) which theologians often suggest is to present Jesus’ teaching as a superior parallel to the 5 books of Moses.
Where Matthew in his opening words brought the story of Jesus back to Abraham, John took it one step further and opened his gospel with an echo of Genesis 1 “In the beginning…”. John knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote Genesis 2.0.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1-3).
This Jesus of whom John writes, the man who walked this earth was the eternal Word, the Son of God. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
The gospels are a genre of their time; they include historical details but were not intended as a watertight historical account; they are biographical but not like a regular biography in that only a few years are really described; and whilst they are reliably verified by eyewitnesses they could hardly be described as neutral considering the authors were men utterly sold out for Jesus. The Gospel of Mark has often been described as ‘a passion narrative (the events surrounding Jesus death) with an extended introduction’, the same could be said of John’s Gospel when you realise almost half of the book accounts for roughly one week. John confesses at the end of his gospel “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were everyone one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:15). But nevertheless these books record the most significant moment in history: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood” as The Message puts it.As much as academics have attempted to ignore this fact by replacing BC and AD with BCE and CE, they still use the birth of Jesus as the marker point between one era and the next.
And so as we see in the early chapters of Matthew and Luke, God chose a girl called Mary to bear His son, he would be called Jesus, but also known as Immanuel (which means God with us). “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” Jesus’ cousin John said of Him. And Jesus in his life, teaching, miracles and ministry, fulfilled the words he read out from the scroll in the synagogue (Luke 4:16-21),
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because 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 and to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Shortly before Jesus was crucified, he prayed “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (John 17:1). The climax of the story of God came with Jesus. The climax of Jesus’ life and ministry came with his death on a cross.
As Jesus died, onlookers such as the Centurion overseeing the execution were filled with awe, exclaiming “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54). When you’re reading the gospels you can’t help but feel the question is being asked of you when Jesus says to his disciples “But who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15).
Jesus’ death wasn’t the end, it was a new beginning. For on the third day he rose from the dead. The earliest copies of Mark’s gospel concluded in mystery (Mark 16:4-8), some of Jesus’ disciples doubted (John 20:25) and to two guys walking along the Road to Emmaus (see above) Jesus explained how this was all part of God’s story.