Tuesday

05 September 2017

“Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.” (v. 13)

Psalm: Psalm 73:15-28


Background

Jewish Christians in the 1st century were convinced that Jesus, the Messiah, had come to establish a renewed, reformed and purified Judaism, as hoped for by prophets of the Old Testament Hebrew scriptures. So, for them, the phrase "for it is written" (v. 16) had a particular significance. Jews believed themselves to be the called, or chosen people, and the prophets emphasised that this meant they were called to be "holy" (a quote from Leviticus 11:44-45), both in the sense of pure and also set apart for God's service. And, for them, the time of waiting for the risen Christ to be revealed in his power and glory was like the earlier Jewish exile in Babylon, 500 years before. For them, the Roman empire was their 'Babylon'. But whereas the faith of their ancestors was fatally flawed - they were ignorant of the truth and their sacrifices were futile, so were never truly released from moral and spiritual exile - their new-found faith in the risen Christ, the perfect sacrifice, promised them a glorious future, as God had always intended. Their "exile" would come to an end, but until then they must live lives of moral purity, "in reverent fear" (v. 17) of God's judgement.

The writer of this letter doesn't just draw on the Hebrew Scriptures for inspiration - there are hints here too of the writings of John, with references to Jesus as the "lamb" (v. 19), and to "love one another" (v. 22) and being "born anew" (v. 23) (and maybe also some hints of Paul). But his main source is the prophets of the Old Testament, and our passage ends with a long quotation from Isaiah 40 (one of many from Isaiah), reminding his readers again of the "good news" (gospel) they had received, which assured them that their faith in the risen Christ gave them hope for a new, and better, life.


To Ponder

  • For his first Jewish followers the resurrection of Jesus marked the beginning of the Messianic age and anticipated the imminent 'End' when God would finally judge the earth and rescue and renew Israel. It had nothing to do with Jesus being divine, for example. What does the idea of the resurrection of Jesus mean to you?
  • There are two ways of looking at Jesus: forwards, through the 'lens' of the Old Testament (Jesus is the human Jewish Messiah ushering in 'the End'), or backwards, through the 'lens' of later Christian doctrine (Jesus is the divine Son of God who gives authority to the Church). Which, for you, has more meaning? Why?


Bible notes author:  The Revd David Rhymer

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