We seem to be wired for stories. If this story seems familiar, that is good. It is not intended to be novel nor creative.
What might catch us by surprise, however, are the contextual reminders, the drawing together of various themes and its conciseness. Here then is one telling of the story … in brief.
A long time ago, perhaps nearly 3500 years ago, the Creator who rules eternally demonstrated his loving kindness. In grace he offered Israel at Mount Sinai a covenant relationship. This promised relationship involved God claiming Israel as his holy nation. They were to serve him, their King, as a kingdom of priests.
Unfortunately, God’s people found themselves abandoning God’s ways as the years unrolled. They pursued other gods who could neither hear, see, bless, love nor protect them. So, God sent prophets to warn his people to repent. When they refused to listen, he brought calamity to reveal the futility of their false gods.
Those Old Testaments prophets also foretold the day would come when God would place upon the throne the Son of David. Israel looked forward to the coming Messiah and the new era he would bring.
About 2000 years ago in the city of Bethlehem, Jesus was born King of the Jews. God’s promised Anointed One, that is the Messiah or Christ, had come.
When Jesus reached about 30 years of age, he launched his ministry of good news to the lost sheep of Israel. Reading from Isaiah, he characterized his ministry as good news and bringing liberty to the oppressed. Like John the Baptist before him, he too announced God’s people needed to repent because the kingdom of God was at hand.
During his years of ministry, God’s people witnessed God’s liberating power at work through Christ. Working primarily with Israel, Jesus overcame every crippling weapon of the evil one. Evil spirits were cast out. Sin was forgiven. Diseases were cured. Even death was reversed as life reinvigorated bodies!
Furthermore, good news accompanied these powerful demonstrations. Jesus welcomed all people, from the marginalized and poor to the wealthy and elite, from the sinner to those who perceived themselves as righteous.
To those who were already God’s children by covenant, Jesus taught them to love God and to love their neighbor. He also emphasized laying up treasures in heaven by generously using their resources to bless others. God’s people needed to get back on track of who they were supposed to be.
After a few years of ministry, Jesus died inaugurating the new covenant relationship with God. Through this covenant God promised he would forgive and claim anyone as his own if they would repent of their ways and rely upon his Son. With his resurrection the Messiah rose to kingship seated at God’s right hand.
The good news regarding what Jesus made possible for humanity spread to all peoples. Those who would believe in Jesus, that is trust in Christ, God transfers into the kingdom of the Son. This reliance upon Christ involved not only believing certain things to be true but also confessing him and being buried with him in baptism. God’s power raises them up from that water into a new life God makes possible.
What does discipleship entail? Scripture teaches that those serving under God’s rule in the kingdom of the Son have been given a purpose by the Father. They need to live worthily of their calling. Living as a disciple requires transformation. New allegiances and values must replace old sources of security. New behaviors and attitudes, such as loving even one’s enemies, need to supplant engrained conventional and parochial habits.
At the end, God will assess what the people of his kingdom have done. All who practice wickedness and failed to serve their Master will be cast out. On the other hand, those who sought to live as disciples will hear, “Well done good and faithful servant!” They will receive an inheritance Christ made possible.