G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “There are only two things that can satisfy the human soul, a story and a person. And then, even the story must be about a person.”
When we think about the gospel, our minds first turn to the story of Jesus. God incarnate, coming to Earth through the Virgin Mary, living a sinless life, dying an inhumane death of which he was totally innocent, and then rising from the dead on the third day. It is that story that makes forgiveness of our sin possible so we can go to heaven when we die. But even the story of Jesus is set in the context of a larger story…the story of Israel.
One of the elements of the apostolic preaching of the first century that we gloss over is the insistence that Jesus is the resolution of the story of Israel. The New Testament is full of Old Testament quotation. Fulfilled prophecies are cited as well. The consistent use of titles such as “Messiah” or “Christ” are not just wordplay or fancy Hebrew aliases. Those elements linked Jesus to thousands of years of history. The story of Israel is the full context of the gospel. If we try to understand the gospel without the broader context of the story of Israel, then our view of the gospel will become distorted.
So what value does this broader view add to the simple message of the cross? How does it help us understand the gospel? Shouldn’t the story of Jesus simply be enough? Granted, that’s a loaded question. But it’s worth thinking about.