Forgive me if I can’t remember, but I read an expression several days ago and can’t recall where. I tend to read or listen to several different sources and viewpoints. Sometimes God reminds me of a concept I’d read or heard days, weeks, or even years prior. I didn’t really process the expression fully at the time, but later as I thought on it, I realized something quite beautiful.
Jesus’ earthly life was the surprise ending to Israel’s story.
As I thought about this, I realized how Israel saw glimpses and hints of Jesus throughout their history but his revelation was much more than they ever imagined. Often, the view was held of the Messiah’s coming and dominance to place Israel as the top dog in the world once and for all since they were the chosen people. They were chosen, but their concept of chosen didn’t seem to be the same as God’s. Paul delves a little deeper into this starting in Romans 9.
Essentially, through Israel’s history, they were in direct conflict with, or in captivity to, other nation(s) more often than not. Much of the Old Testament was complied from the Assyrian’s reign of terror on northern Israel, through the Babylonian rampage and exile of southern Judah, to their eventual return and rebuilding of the Temple. The Old Testament writings reflect this. As well, they can often reflect an angry, vengeful God who was punishing Israel through these other nations but would eventually relent and be all nice and loving again. This brought me to a second point:
Either Israel had the wrong idea of God, or Jesus was wrong when he said he and the Father are one (John 10:30) and he is the image of Father (John 14:7).
So which is it? Many seem to like to mix the vengeful, retributive God when they want to justify aggressive or even hateful behavior (i.e. fear-mongering), but appeal to the compassionate and loving Jesus as a defense when they are the subject of inquiry. However, it would seem a major part of Jesus in the flesh was to show us how wrong our concept of a fear-inducing Father can be. In God, there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). I can only conclude this to mean that the rule to fear God is just a law taught by man (Isaiah 29:13). It seems the best way for us to understand God’s heart was for him to come down to our level and show us firsthand.
However, we still make many of the assumptions the Israelites did–if X happens to us, then we must have done something wrong. If Y happens to us, then we must have done something right. One day the Messiah will come and justify us before all these “other” evil people/nations. Again, we make the same assumptions that the Messiah will come in fury and anger and destroy because that’s how God does things. Thus, we continue in the same repetitive circle of justified hatred and exclusion of those we are meant to be the salt and light to. Our mission is not to project the attitude of “I’m going to heaven and you’re going to be left behind.” Like Jesus exemplifies, our calling is to be servants of all and love our enemies (Matthew 23:11, 5:44).
Israel was the chosen people in God’s story to effect the surprise ending of Jesus. Though they were repressed and kicked around through much of their history and expected to be eventually placed above all other nations, the Messiah did something far more beautiful and unexpected–he became Savior of the entire world!