The New Testament, Part 1.
As we began this walk through the Bible I initially said that the Bible, a book that is thousands of years old, written in ancient languages and from different cultures, primarily by men, was important for us today. Over these past blogs I have shared a few thoughts on how the first half of the Bible, The Old Testament, is important for us. Today we turn to the second half of the Bible, The New Testament.
How is the New Testament important for us today? Of course there are many things that can (and will) be said in response to this question. Let me begin with one word: JESUS.
The opening chapters of the New Testament, the Gospels (Good News) of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, tell us about Jesus. They begin with his birth because there were some incredible things that happened during it. There were accounts of angels showing up telling Jesus’ mom – Mary, and his earthly dad – Joseph, that the baby they were going to have was conceived by God not a man. When Jesus was actually born angels came again to sing praises, tell people to check it out, prophetic words were uttered concerning Jesus’ future, and there was excitement in the air.
Strangely, with all these extraordinary events taking place, only two of the four Gospels record these events, Matthew and Luke. What is also odd is that with two exceptions, one in Matthew 2:1-12 and the other in Luke 2:41-52 nothing is said about Jesus’ first 30 years. There is no account concerning his growing through the early stages of life, nothing of his academic training, nothing of his friends, nothing. As a result there are a lot of theories about ‘the silent years’ of Jesus.
Why were these early years of such minimal importance? Because the 3 years of his public ministry was of ultimate importance!! A few verses from the Gospels can show what I mean.
“The time has come,” Jesus said. “The Kingdom of God is near.
Repent and believe this good news.” Mark 1:15
During Jesus’ three years of ministry he preached, he healed, he trained, and he demonstrated the Kingdom of God that is near. Jesus tapped into the Kingdom of God and brought heaven to earth. Lives were changed physically, spiritually, and eternally. Everything he did was a demonstration of what God’s Kingdom is really like. Looking at and studying Jesus gives us insights into heaven.
Jesus not only demonstrated God’s Kingdom he also revealed a new way of leadership. In Mark 10:45 we read:
For the son of man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.
The higher up the ladder of influence a person rises the greater the tendency to “Lord it over” other people. Jesus presented a new goal of leadership, not power but service, service to see people set free from those things that enslave them in body, mind, and spirit.
There are many more things that can (and will) be said, but, for this blog let me share one more verse. It comes from John 1:29. It is John the Baptist’s description of Jesus as Jesus came to visit John. John said,
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
We highlighted all the way back in the Old Testament, when Adam and Eve rebelled from their relationship with God, God’s desire to reconcile with humanity so women and men could continue their journey to become everything God designed and desired them to be. The thing that had kept them from ‘becoming’ was this thing called “Sin.” The goal of every religion known to humanity is the removal of sin (even though it is called different things within different faiths) so we can become right with God. The primary method offered by various religions focuses on doing godly or sacrificial acts enough times so I self-cleanse my soul with the hope that God will take notice and choose to forgive my wrongs and love me once again.
In contrast to this view of spiritual life, The GOOD NEWS (remember that is what the word ‘gospel’ means) is that our behaviors can’t take away our sins but Jesus the “Lamb of God” can and does. So, when I finally get to a point in life where I want a restored relationship with God who loves me (my definition of spirituality) I can achieve that by going through Jesus who takes away my sin and brings God’s Kingdom, God’s presence to my world.
The New Testament brings this Good News to us. Becoming reconciled with God is not about religiously scripted rules but about a relationship with Jesus, the One who removes all my spiritual barriers so I can begin to live life as God intended.