April 2024

Salvation and History         

History is not incidental to God’s salvation. Jesus’ story can’t be told well apart from history. He came into the story of the Hebrew people and many others as well, Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, or Romans, to name a few. As well, Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is understood by Christians as the fulfilment of Israel’s history: the line of prophets, descendant of kings and purifier of the temple. The more we know those stories, the more we understand Jesus. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead within history reveals that those stories, and history itself, have an eternal dimension.

Jesus is a part of history moving in the other direction as well – moving forward. History has taken a new direction since Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Human history since Jesus cannot properly be understood without knowing Jesus and his teaching.

Finally, we confess as a matter of faith that all the events of human history are heading toward a good end thanks to Jesus.

Jesus’ resurrection is so unlike anything else in history or nature that it is easy to slip into treating it as a purely spiritual event as if it had nothing to do either of them. A few little things change when we emphasize that Jesus rose from the dead in our history.

First, history has a direction and our lives have a direction. How many peoples and nations have disappeared? How much has been lost? And yet in his vision of the kingdom of God, John saw people “from every tribe, tongue, language, nation” with Jesus.

Similarly, on a personal level, the ups and downs of life can be devastating and leave a person wondering if everyday life has any meaning. Through Jesus, God is taking all that happens to us and weaving it in to salvation. All of our life is part of our salvation.

Thus, thanks to Jesus’ resurrection, human history and our lives are redeemed. They aren’t pointless because they are connected to Jesus’ victory.

Jesus coming into history is also a check on our self-centredness. This moment in history or in our life is not the “terminus.” We are not at the culmination of history. For example, some people make sense of history by talking about our progress toward democracy, human rights, or science. However, different cultures at different times have held different, even conflicting, proposals for what we are progressing toward. If reading and reflecting on the Gospel According to Mark has underlined anything for me, it is that what we think is the greatest thing might be the least important while the least important might turn out to be the greatest. 

Jesus is the source, the centre, and the goal of history. Instead of thinking of history as a series of cause and effect in a straight line, it is more like a wheel, with Jesus as the hub, and all people and nations of all times, moving closer to him at the centre. We are all at various points of progress in drawing closer to him and the Kingdom of God.

May the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection help you to draw closer to God in holiness.

Yours in prayer, Pastor Joel


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