The Story of Scripture, Part 12 – The Lion and the Lamb

John the Baptist was the one prophesied to come just before the Messiah, and to carry out a forerunning ministry in order to prepare the people. This he did, calling the people to turn from their sins, and then pointing them to their long awaited Messiah.

John 1:29;

[John]… saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 

In reading through the Gospel accounts, it is revealed that Jesus was the fulfillment of all the types and shadows in the Old Testament. Indeed he was the very hope of Israel; the hope of Adam and Eve themselves; and the very fulfillment of the promise given to all who looked forward to it from that time of the garden onward. 

This fulfillment motif carries right through the New Testament. He came as none other than the second Adam and the true Israel. Indeed, many moments in the life and ministry of Jesus are recorded precisely so as to make this parallel clear. Like Adam, Christ was tempted by Satan directly. Like Israel, Christ was called to faithfulness during a wilderness trial period. Of course, where Adam had failed (along with Israel after him), it is shown through these events that only Christ was able to succeed in being perfectly obedient to God’s covenant requirements. Thus it is Christ, and Christ alone, who is deserving of the great eschatological Sabbath blessing. Yet, as the spotless sacrificial Lamb he had also come to receive the covenant sanction of death on behalf of his people.  

In this regard, when Jesus’ enemies asked Him to prove Himself, he simply said; 

John 2:19;

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

In this prediction, Jesus made reference to his own body as the true fulfillment of all that the temple had ever foreshadowed. Now it would be Jesus himself, and no longer a mere building, that would be the meeting place between God and men. The temple was always a vital reminder to the people of their need for a substitutionary sacrifice,  but now the ultimate sacrifice had come. He would be a substitute for his people in death, and so make a way to return to the fellowship that man had once enjoyed with God. To make this possible, Christ would have to die. However, in so doing he would defeat all of his enemies, and at the end be victorious over death itself.

Jesus was resurrected three days after the crucifixion, just as prophesied. Not only did this stand as a vital vindication of his ministry, but also a sign of his total triumph over evil. The Saviour had indeed come. All the promises had been fulfilled. Jesus of Nazareth had shown himself to be not only the sacrificial lamb promised to Israel, but also the very Lion of Judah; the mighty serpent-crushing Saviour first promised to Adam and Even in the garden. Added to this, Jesus had not merely made a way back to the garden, but rather to the final Sabbath glory first then offered to man.

The Story of Scripture, Part 11 – Broken Silence

When seventy years of Babylonian exile had passed, some of the Jews were miraculously allowed to return to their land in order to rebuild the temple and the city. However, it soon became apparent that even their best efforts under men like Ezra and Nehemiah could never bring about the restoration that God had promised through the prophets. In order for these prophecies to be truly fulfilled, they had to wait for the promised One whose arrival would be made clear by the sending of a forerunner; one who would come in the spirit and power of Elijah himself. In this regard, the prophet Malachi said this;

Mal 4:5-6;

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

This prophecy is found in the last book of the Old Testament. And once the canon of this testament was brought to a close, God did not speak for another 400 years. Moreover, this period of history would prove to be a time of great difficulty for Israel, being handed down from one super power to the next. By the time of the Gospels, Israel had not only been under the oppressive rule of the Babylonians; but also the Persians, the Greeks; and then finally, the Romans.

As is completely understandable, by this stage there was great anticipation among the Jews concerning the arrival of the promised Messiah. There was one thought on their minds: “When would the Messiah reveal himself; and how would God’s kingdom finally come?”

While various Jewish sub-groups (e.g., Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes) sought to answer these questions differently, they all basically agreed on one very important idea: their story was still waiting for an ending.

It is in this context then, that the gospel account is opened;

John 1:6-8;

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 

400 years of silence was shattered by John the Baptist – one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah. Indeed, he said of himself;

John 1:23;

…I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.

The Story of Scripture, Part 8 – God Saves.

The Mosaic covenant promised blessing and prosperity. However, it was conditioned upon obedience. When entering into this covenant arrangement, the people of Israel displayed a grossly naive overconfidence with regard to their own ability. Without a thought to the contrary, they assumed that it would not be any trouble for them to keep their side of the bargain. However, despite their promises, they soon joined Adam in deep-seated covenant-breaking rebellion. Indeed, during their travels to the land of Canaan, Israel gave in almost completely to a contemptuous unbelief before God, and so had already forsaken any hope of entering the land as their promised covenant reward. Like Adam, they had failed to enter rest. 

Through it all however, God did not cast them off, showing them even at this stage that a promise of grace (Gen 3:15) undergirded the present typological Mosaic arrangement. Eventually, when this Mosaic law had served its function in destroying their false confidence, thereby properly joining them to Adam’s rebellion (and showing them their need for a Saviour); then, the undergirding covenant grace already promised to their forefather Abraham would bloom even further, eventually finding its full expression in the promise of the New Covenant itself. Before the New Covenant Messiah came however, they would have their whole national history (of failure) to look back on in order to prove one simple point: because of their failure to be obedient to God, they were under just condemnation, and had no hope of entering into the promised land of eternal sabbath rest. Only a Saviour, one who had not shared in their sin, could lead them into this promised land. While this truth would become clearer and clearer as they moved towards the New Covenant, already it was being shown to them in picture form. For even at this point, it was only once they had forsaken any right to the land that one of their kinsmen, one who had not shared in their wilderness rebellion, would lead them into the promised land. His name was Joshua, meaning “God saves”. It was the Hebrew equivalent of the name, Jesus.