I drew the above sketch a while ago in an attempt to work through and articulate the interaction of God with humanity, focusing on the transitions that happened when Jesus went to the cross.
Here’s what I see as the basic testimony of the Bible:
- Faith has always been the foundation of relationship with God. From the beginning, there were those who trusted God, and those who didn’t. Able trusted God, Cain did not.
- The Flood was a chokepoint of belief. Believe and have life. Whether you ponder it as history or metaphor, the point remains.
- Abram believed, and God pulled him aside and worked with him and his progeny to establish Israel as distinct from the rest of the peoples.
- From the get-go, there were those in Israel who believed (the Remnant) and those who did not believe.
- It was possible to move from being outside of Israel, to being part of Israel. Rahab and Ruth, for example.
- It was possible to move from being inside of Israel, to being kicked out.
- There was always a remnant, and it was always the remnant that God was concerned with.
Now let’s jump back in time to the day that Zechariah got his drivers license. He’s not yet married Elizabeth. Mary hasn’t been born, nor Joseph, nor any of the disciples, nor Paul.
At this point in time there exist the power structures in Jerusalem, both religious and civil. There are those in Israel who are concerned with working the system to their benefit, with no real heart toward God. And, there are those who long to see God glorified, who long for freedom of the soul. There is the Remnant.
Move forward slowly through time. Zechariah and Elizabeth age. Mary and Joseph are born. Anna and Simeon carry along in their faithful duties, looking for the Messiah.
Mary grows into a young woman, is visited by the angel. She and Joseph marry. John is born and Jesus is born. They grow into young men, and begin sharing the message that God has given them.
Jesus collects a following. There are many on the periphery, some are just gawkers, but many are without guile and long for the Messiah. Jesus gathers a select few close to him, to teach them as they walk together.
Then, the cross. Jesus is crucified, dies, is put in the tomb, and returns to life three days later. He goes to his distraught disciples and gives them more instruction, and marching orders.
Here’s the key: Those who were part of the remnant before and during the time that Jesus walked about in Palestine became the nucleus of the church.
The remnant before the cross related to God through the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai. Jesus established a new covenant with the remnant current at the time. That remnant – who were just a continuation of the faithful from the time of Moses – became what we call the church. The remnant of Israel – the faithful Jewish people – received the Messiah and were established as the church.
More time passed. The Gospel was preached in Jerusalem, Samaria, and beyond. Eventually, the first Gentiles responded to the Gospel, and the remnant of Israel expanded its borders to include the uncircumcised. The wall of separation was broken down as the remnant body obeyed Jesus the head to embrace those who had been far off but were now brought near by the blood of the Messiah.
The church can rightly be described as the remnant of Israel, enlarged by the inclusion of believing Gentiles.
Whereas the distinction before the cross would have been between Jew and Gentile, it is now between Jesus and not-Jesus.
Jesus is the culmination. Jesus is the point.
As always, the sketch above, and my thinking are a work in progress. I do have thoughts to redo the picture, to clarify (and beautify) it. If you have thoughts, corrections, questions, or critiques, please leave a comment!