When you read a book with a twist ending, the ending reframes the entire story. The Bible is no different. In this sermon, Greg shows how Jesus’ message reframes how we are to understand the Bible, and he shows us why the Anabaptists shared this belief.
Scripture is not a flat book. Stuart Murray, in his book The Naked Anabaptist, says that a flat book is one where all parts of it are given equal weight. A cookbook is a good example of this. A recipe, no matter where it is located in the book, can be taken out of the book, and it doesn’t take away from the next recipe. But, if you’ve ever read a novel, you know that the ending reframes the entire book. And the Bible is no different.
People like to take sections out of the Bible and give it equal weight to Jesus. So, if they want to take vengeance on someone or justify some other behavior that we don’t see in Jesus, they tend to take passages out of the Bible to prove their point. But, as followers of Jesus, we are called to make him the central aspect of Scripture and to read every piece of Scripture through the lens of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Jesus was not what people expected him to be. The Jewish people thought the Messiah would reform the Jewish nation by leading a violent uprising against the Romans. But Jesus didn’t reform the nation of Israel. And he didn’t lead a violent uprising. Instead, he hung out with prostitutes and sinners, chastises the religious elite for their self-righteousness, and dies to the nationalist forces occupying Israel instead of killing them. And not only does Jesus not fit the mold of the Messiah that the Jewish people want, but he goes further and says that he IS the Messiah and that the Old Testament was written about him.
Jesus is the life of Scripture. If we try to read the Bible without finding Jesus, we won’t find life. This twist, at the end of the Bible, reframes how we are to read the Bible. When we find things in the Old Testament that don’t line up with who Jesus is or what He commands us to do, then we are to follow Jesus and not the Old Testament teachings. We cannot simply jump over Jesus and find whatever passage we want to us to justify our behavior. We cannot go to the shadow for something when we have the reality that creates the shadow.
The Anabaptists saw that the Bible was a story with a twist ending. They understood, like Paul did in Galatians, that the Old Testament was meant to show people how they were stuck in sin. The law could never get people out of sin. Nationalism will never bring about the Kingdom of God. Only in Christ can we be right with God and fulfill our life in the Kingdom. And to pull something out of the Old Testament that is counterintuitive to Jesus is to be unfaithful to Jesus.
Jesus brought a radical twist to the story that God was doing in this world. No longer would people be trapped in their sin and need to perform to get out of it. Jesus’ twist means that we can’t read the rest of the story as if the twist never happened. It’d be like watching the Sixth Sense and not seeing Bruce Willis as being dead throughout the movie. Not seeing the little hints along the way that point towards the twist. In the same way, we share with the Anabaptists that the twist of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are more important and weightier in our decision making than the story that led up to the twist.
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