Seeing Israel through the Jesus lens

Yesterday I had the opportunity to preach on a very difficult passage in Matthew 5:17-20, trying to discern what Jesus meant he said, “I have come not to abolish but fulfill the Law and Prophets.” 

The most immediate meanings I concluded were as follows: 

1.) All the Old Testament points to Jesus, therefore we cannot interpret the Old Testament laws, verses, passages, stories, books without seeing them in light of Jesus. Just like the event of 9/11 changes our interpretations of what we do and don’t do now, so we interpret the OT in light of the new era of Jesus’ reign on Earth.
2.) Jesus did in the Law for us what we could not do in the Law,  therefore we don’t need to relax Jesus’ extensive and hard commands in the Sermon on the Mount, but can relax that he did them for us.
3.) Jesus brings out the full meaning/intent/heart of the Law,  therefore we should see the Law as something that trips us up and reveals our need for Jesus.

I wanted to follow up just a bit on number 1. We cannot isolate bible verses in the Old Testament without see what Jesus has to say on the matter. While I do think many people are so clearly pro-Israel because they honestly want to be faithful to the scriptures, it might be worth a second (or third) look to discern whether or not Jesus himself is actually pro-Israel. 

For instance, many folks point to Gen 12:1-3 and say, “God says I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” Unfortunately most forget to take into serious consideration that Israel was blessed SO THAT it would be a blessing to the nations. It wasn’t that much of a blessing and so Jesus as an Israelite, or in place of Israel, fulfills that promise and sends his disciples out to bless the nations with the gospel.

We don’t blindly apply passages regarding sacrifices, shellfish, or stoning kids. Instead, since Jesus has come, we need to say, “Did Jesus have anything to say or do with how should now understand or apply this TODAY?”

In the Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-45), Jesus makes a fairly bold claim:

“Therefore I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing it’s fruits…When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.”

John Piper probably does a better job (I can only assume, since I haven’t listened to this respective sermon) of explaining this. Folks at the Gospel Coalition have summarized his sermon on this very relevant issue.

1. God chose Israel from all the peoples of the world to be his own possession.
2. The Land was part of the inheritance he promised to Abraham and his descendants forever.
3. The promises made to Abraham, including the promise of the Land, will be inherited as an everlasting gift only by true, spiritual Israel, not disobedient, unbelieving Israel.
4. Jesus Christ has come into the world as the Jewish Messiah, and his own people rejected him and broke covenant with their God.
5. Therefore, the secular state of Israel today may not claim a present divine right to the Land, but they and we should seek a peaceful settlement not based on present divine rights, but on international principles of justice, mercy, and practical feasibility.
6. By faith in Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, Gentiles become heirs of the promise of Abraham, including the promise of the Land.
7. Finally, this inheritance of Christ’s people will happen at the Second Coming of Christ to establish his kingdom, not before; and till then, we Christians must not take up arms to claim our inheritance; but rather lay down our lives to share our inheritance with as many as we can.

I’m not anti-Israel nor pro-Palestinian. I actually had a “run-in” with some Palestinians on the Mount of Olives and by God’s grace ended up not getting stoned. Literally. Totally destroyed the special experience of being there when one of our traveling companions gets in a fight, which then invited the jeers and stones of “F*$&  you, Americans!” (and they weren’t just talking about our college, FU, Fuman University). Crazy times.

I just think folks should probably temper the zeal for Israel with a recognition that the present state of Israel is not much different than the past state of Israel in the bible. And Jesus wasn’t a fan of how things were running then.  

I realize much of Christianity would disagree with the Reformed “take” on Israel. That’s OK. This has just come up several times in conversation in the last week or two so I thought I’d chime in. Should be my last. Because I don’t think we can interpret anything in the OT without seeing how it points to Jesus (Jesus seems to think that way as well in Luke 24:37), I think it’s worth a second, or third look. 

My confession and conviction, in my zeal to see the church (which comprises many nations), as the fulfillment of O.T. singular geo-political/ethnic Israel, is that I can’t tell you the last time I prayed for the ethnic people of Israel to come to faith. That ends now as I’m putting on my nifty prayer app  

To conclude, here’s some further application from the article

Why It Matters: Wherever you land theologically or politically, the events of the past week mark yet another distressing development in the Israeli-Palestinian saga. This is a prime opportunity to pray. Pray for the Israelis, image-bearers of God, that they’d search the Scriptures and find life in the Savior (John 5:39-40, 46). May they discover that the meeting point between God and man is no longer a place—whether reconstructed temple or geographical partition—but a risen and reigning and soon returning Person (John 4:21-26).

Pray too for the Palestinians, image-bearers of God, that they’d turn in droves to Jesus the King. Pray particularly for our Palestinian brothers and sisters in the faith; there are, after all, far more Palestinian Christians in the Middle East than the news headlines imply.
May the Prince of Peace reveal what’s been hidden (Luke 19:41-42) and bring everlasting shalom to a Land flowing with blood and hatred—with little milk and honey to be found.

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2 thoughts on “Seeing Israel through the Jesus lens

  1. Thanks Bangs. By no means the final word, just would love people to have a little less confidence in saying, "Well it says in the OT….."Piper's summary is very helpful and the application was challenging. Worth the price of admission if you ask me.

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