“Hear O Israel, the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is One.” This is known as the Shema prayer, or at least a segment of it. It is the central prayer of the Jewish life and often the first section of Scripture that a Jewish child learns. This is normally recited twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening.
As we continue our journey into understanding the gospel in light of the kingdom, this is a very important aspect. Everything that Jesus does in his life and his part in ushering in the kingdom of God is wrapped up in that Shema prayer. The life and story of Israel being fulfilled and lived out by Jesus, is also the life of the one God, and how Jesus is part of both. Jesus, as our creeds suggest, then is both human and divine, and the life that he leads in establishing his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, connects greatly to Israel and their central prayer. This is very important piece to comprehend, for understanding this, the events of the life of Christ will shine a new luminosity when you read through the gospels. So part of Jesus’ mission to establish a kingdom and of course defeating the ruler of it, was also to demonstrate how the very central prayer of Israel incorporated Jesus even though they did not yet know who HE was. Some of this will illuminate itself as we visit the texts at hand.
Once again returning to what was said in the beginning of this blog series, focusing only on the death of Jesus can give hope for when you die, but really no hope for when you live. And incorporating Jesus life, so tied with Israel will eventually give you hope for your present, understanding that Jesus’ kingdom is here on earth as it is in heaven. This kingdom is why Jesus lived and is a big part of the gospel or good news. Moving forward…
Mark 1-“John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins… In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased (vs 4-5, 9-11). Jesus ministry is about to begin, but before doing so he has to empowered by the Holy Spirit and baptized. Baptism enacted through water, has implications that are very symbolic for an Israelite. This correlation to what is being said here plays itself out much greater in the following verses, but for this to become clear, we will bring out the notion right now.
Jesus life once again as I have been stating is so connected to Israel, that for his ministry to begin in any other way, it would just not make sense. All the way back to Exodus 14, we find Moses leading the people across the Red Sea, taking them out of slavery from Egypt and into new life toward the promised land (referring back to Genesis 12). This story here is connected to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and is precisely what Mark here is trying to demonstrate. After they cross the Red Sea, Moses brings the people into the wilderness, a path chosen by God, to eventually lead them into Canaan (promised land). Immediately after Jesus is baptized, he is led by the Spirit (just as pillar of fire and dust led Israel into the desert and around) to the wilderness to be tempted (as Israel was tempted). Matthew 4 , “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, after fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” Israel under Moses’ leadership wanders for 40 years after they failed to trust God, being tempted in the desert. Jesus here is tempted after fasting for 40 days, and unlike Israel he resists temptation.
Once again it is important to realize that Jesus life is a reflection of what and who Israel was to be. The call to Adam in Genesis 1:28, and to Abraham in Genesis 12, is being redefined, and reshaped around Jesus who begins to fulfill the mission and ironically the promise given with that mission. It’s very interesting to note, that one of the ways the devil tempts Jesus is about this kingdom that he is coming to establish. “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9). The devil knew what he was there to do, and part of that was to restore earth to its proper creator, and to establish a kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. The devil therefore tempts Jesus in this very way, to provide a shortcut, and allow his mission in part to be fulfilled without all the suffering. But as he know he is tempted and does not sin, and then he leaves the wilderness to begin his ministry.
“From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Vs17). Once again understanding the life of Jesus, and how this relates to the gospel is to understand the whole gospel. After Moses and the generation of Israelite’s failed to trust God, God raised up another man named Joshua (Yeshua-meaning Jesus). Joshua would eventually lead Israel into the promise land, and to establish the kingdom, but first the evil in the land would have to be dealt with. Reading through the book of Joshua we see how this takes place, but we know it all does not happen in Joshua’s lifetime, which to some extent was Israel’s downfall. Jesus therefore has that same mission; to rid the world of wickedness, but his mission was not one with a sword, but was two-fold: one with offering forgiveness and telling people to repent (a healthy way to purge wickedness from this world), and two, through sacrificing himself on a cross to pay for the world’s sins and to destroy Satan’s kingdom and begin to restore Gods.
So let me recap what is being said here. Moses is called by God to lead Isarel into the promised land. Finally when Pharoah let’s them go, they cross over the Red Sea (symbolic to baptism in N.T.). He is leading the Israelites out of slavery and into the promised land (or into a kingdom). Moses and that generation ultimately fail both through disobedience (tempted and sinned) and then they wander 40 years until Joshua leads next generation into the kingdom or once again, promised land. Through many battles they almost reach there goal, but not in it’s entirety (visit last chapter of Joshua for more). Now we return to Jesus.
Jesus is baptized (connecting Israel to Red Sea), then immediately he is led to the Desert (as Israel was), to be tempted (as Israel was again); he succeeds(no other leader needed), and then begins his mission (similar to Joshua’s ). His mission: to bring the people into the promised land and out of slavery. How? By establishing a kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, living out the Shema prayer as God, and as an Israelite whose mission was to be an icon (Ikon-Greek) of God. Jesus therefore becomes Israel’s rescue, as an Israelite and as God, and he connects all the hope of Israel’s central prayer to himself. His life therefore becomes a rescue for Israel, but also as Israel to the world, hence what their mission was always to be. That is being an image of God, so when others saw Israel, they would see God, and therefore give him the glory and also turn to him. In this way they would be a blessing to all nations (Genesis 12). In order for this to happen a kingdom has to be established, not any kingdom, but God’s, with new family, and new mission, much of what Jesus’ life was about,
This journey will be continued…