The Church’s Jesus Interprets Everything

Last week I posted a bit on “the church’s Jesus,” in part to throw my lot in with those who see Jesus as God’s agent rather than with those who see Jesus as an interesting historical phenomenon.

The first thing I said was that the church’s Jesus is the agent of Israel’s God. And this has some ramifications that we need to get more comfortable with.

In particular, to say that Jesus is the consummate act of Israel’s God on earth, that Jesus is the revelation of God, that “however many promises God has made they are yes in him”–to say these things is to claim (whether we know it or not) that Jesus is the hermeneutical key for making sense of the entire Biblical story.

Let me say that in a bit more accessible manner: if we really think Jesus is the Messiah, we should be reading the Old Testament in the same creative ways that the New Testament writers do.

Really, this creeps people out.

In Luke 24 we hear of what it means that the OT anticipates a coming Messiah: that the Christ must suffer, die, be raised, and repentance for forgiveness of sins be proclaimed in his name to all nations.

If this is true, it means that other story lines in the OT (like the ones where an earthly king conquers all the nations, like the ones where the Messiah is glorified by the subjugation of the nations, like the ones where the physical land of Israel takes pride of place as the possession of God’s people) are dead-ends. Or, perhaps better, swept up into a story that transforms them.

Knowing that the identity marker of the people of God is union with Christ, we eschew the identity markers of circumcision and food laws–i.e., of ethnic Israel.

Knowing that the defining moment in the story is the crucifixion and resurrection, we structure our lives and ethics to publicly placard to the world that we are the cross people, living in hope of resurrection. That means, of course, that we do not structure our lives by such things as avoidance of icons or sabbath keeping–which would be aimed to show the world that we are the first Exodus people. No, we’re the second Exodus people.

Knowing that Jesus is the defining moment of the story, we reread the psalms, incorporating ourselves into the story of the singers, and Jesus into the Lord whose name is praised.

Jesus becomes our hermeneutic. Luther was half right when he said that the “canon within the canon” is what places Christ front and center (paraphrase). The other half is this: where Christ is not front and center we have both the freedom and obligation to put him there.

That means reinterpreting the scriptures of Israel in light of the Christ event; and it might even mean reinterpreting parts of the NT (James, anyone?) in light of the same.

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