Putting on "Jesus Glasses" -- Part 4July 11, 2023
(We are using "Jesus Glasses" as a metaphor to assert that Jesus is the criterion by which all scipture is to be read or interpreted. Luke 24:25-27,44; )
My mother reared my sister and me with the stern admonition to never call anyone a liar, or for us to never accuse one another of lying, but instead to say they told a story or that they are a big story-teller. For this reason, I must always overcome the initial inertia that I automatically associate with the word story, i.e. something that isn't true -- a fable or myth. However, what I’m learning, in a life-changing way, is that there is a Big True Story in which God is the chief actor and the script for that story is called the Bible.
It is my humble opinion, that for too long we have viewed the Bible as a book about what we are supposed to do instead of seeing it as a word portrait of who God is. We have gleaned principles and precepts, formulas and favorite lessons from it, and yet missed the big picture, the big story – the metanarrative.
Are you familiar with the word “Metanarrative”? It’s a worldview in story shape. It means a big, comprehensive story that explains who we are, how we got here, why we are as we are, and where we are going. It is a universal that is big enough to cover all the particulars. A metanarrative shapes who we are, what we believe, what we aspire to be, as well as our vision of truth. When we lose it, we lose our identity, we lose ourselves.
The Gospel of God is the greatest story the world has ever heard. The good news it brought and brings is the invitation to tear up all our own little scripts and self-made stories, and enlist, with a clean start and a strategic part, as members of the cast in God’s big redemptive story.
Since Adam’s refusal to submit to God’s script and his choice to play by the lies of the devil, all of us since then have been born with a disdain for any script but our own. Unable to bear the thought of not being the star actor, we script ourselves in the role of little god-players. Ayn Ryand, who, although an advocate of capitalism and the free market system, was a Jewish atheist. She said: "I raise this god over the earth. This god, in one word, is ‘I’!" That, my friend, is the often unspoken, but daily practiced creed of every unbeliever.
Since we have stepped onto the stage of human history in the middle of the story, we tend to conclude that the story is without a plot or plan. Without God’s perspective, history looks like the proverbial Chinese fire drill, or the child's game, king of the mountain, where everybody is trying to knock everyone else off the top spot. Because we’ve lost the big story, we settle for a lot of little stories with fading stars – sports stars, rock stars, and movie stars, politcal stars, etc. They have their little stories and we vicariously share them. But the tragedy is that they miss God’s Big Story.
However, the good news is that the God who made us, in the face of the tragedies of the sin that had so heinously marred us, took the initiative to remedy the problem and recovery the plot of His Big Story by being made one of us. Matthew tells us that although through sin we lost the plot of God’s Story, through the Son we Learn of the full Plan, in a Person, who Fulfills the Promise of God (Mt.1:21, And she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name JESUS…”"
Matthew, the converted tax collector, is given the privilege of writing the lead story in fulfilling act of God's Big Story. We could call his gospel account “The Messiah’s Report.” Although his is not the first New Testament book written -- Mark’s account is chronologically first, it is placed first because it gives the whole story of how the Messiah fulfilled all the Old Testament promises to Israel in the true Israelite, the ultimate First-born Son – Jesus.
Phillip Greenslade notes: “From the beginning, Matthew’s aim is to demonstrate how Jesus recapitulates the whole story of Israel. He wants to show how Jesus re-enacts the pattern of events in Israel’s history so as to bring to completion and fulfillment the purpose for which God chose Israel. The two traumatic events that bracket the Old Testament story of Israel are alluded to in Matthew 2:13—21-- the Exodus, the dramatic beginning; and the Exile, the effective end of her life as an independent nation under God.”
In Matthew’s Messiah Report, we are shown the New David, who is calling and crowning a New Israel, based on grace not race. In Matthew 4, He charges out to confront the Goliath of Satan himself, and defeats him in the wilderness where the enemy had beaten the Israelites as they journeyed on their Exodus from Egypt.
Then as the New Moses, Jesus goes up on a mountain – not as a Law-giver, but as the perfect Law-Maker and Keeper. There He sets forth in Matt 5-7, the terms of the New Covenant. He then begins the New Exodus that will take Him through the ultimate Jordan, River of Death, and out the other side in Resurrection victory. He then goes to the top of the Mount of Olives and gives the Mission Mandate to expect to go down and out instead of up and out! Down from the mountain with the whole story, which is to be taken to the whole world as the only true story that can make men whole. (Mat 28:18 -20, “And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.")
Christians can affirm with confidence what modern man denies, i.e., that there is a master story that makes sense of all reality. We offer what modern man demands, i.e., a real, historical, yet very personal story of the one true and living God who made us and then in the person of His Son, was willing to become one of us in order to redeem us from destruction. And then through His salvation, He would come, not only to redeem us from our sins, self, and Satan, but to intimately relate to us God by moving in to live in us in a forever love relationship! Glory to God in the Highest!
The weight of glory that this story carries makes me feel like the man who had been married for over twenty years and was asked why he and his wife had no children. He replied, “My wife is “impregnable.” Realizing that this statement didn’t sound right, he corrected himself. “No, she’s “inconceivable.” Even more dissatisfied, he said, “No, no, that’s not right. I guess you could just say that she’s “unbearable”!” Anyone trying to explain the marvel, mystery, majesty, and miracle of the Big Redemptive Story of God experiences the same difficulty of this man.
The big story declares that God has spoken fully, finally and in a forever way in the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us as the glory of God—the Promised Messiah, the Star of the Story – the Fulfiller of all its prophecies and types.
The woman at the well in John 4:25 said in Peterson’s Message, “I do know that the Messiah is coming. When He arrives we will get the whole story.” The whole gospel tells the whole, and old, old story of Jesus and His love.
Philip Greenslade sums up the Big Story as he writes: “In him, the ‘Final Word made flesh’ (Jn. 1:14; Heb.1:1), the story of Israel is successfully written, the story of God is fully revealed, and the story of the world redeemingly redrawn.”
What’s your story? Living the “American dream” – getting a good education, a good job, a good mate, get a couple of good children, get a lot of good stuff – cash, cars, clothes, cabins -- a good house in a good neighborhood, occasionally attend a good church filled with good people, take a lot of good vacations, enjoy a good time golfing, gardening, and hunting and fishing, then retirement with good health, so that you can go to a good place called Heaven?!
May I suggest to you that your story is far too small, too self-centered, and will never satisfy the reason for your being – that why-am-I-here cry that constantly echoes in the chambers of your heart. Let me invite you to tear up your little script and join the cast of God’s Big Story. When you get truly captured by it, you’ll be so captivated with it that you’ll be compelled by love to tell the old, old story of God’s redeeming love. You’ll begin to understand that everything we do as believers — as those who are ‘in Christ’ — makes sense because it is connected to God’s big story, illuminating who we are in Christ, who He is in us, and what we are here for.