The Coming of the Messiah
With Ezra and Nehemiah we glimpse the beginning of the period during which the Jewish people lived under the rule of Law or “Torah”. Religious life was centred on the worship of the Temple in Jerusalem, but politically they were dominated by a succession of foreign empires – Persia, Greece, Syria and Rome. The fervency of their worship and the frustration of their desire for freedom tended to breed a fierce exclusiveness, while hopes for liberation centred on the coming of the “Messiah.”
But Jesus taught and the early Christians discovered that the goodness and the promises of God were to be available to the Gentiles also. The destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jewish people seemed to confirm that a new age was beginning. The letter to the Hebrews shows that in the light of Jesus the sacrificial worship of the Temple in Jerusalem is obsolete. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus fulfils the old Law by giving a new one based on God’s desire for mercy, something which is demonstrated above all in his own sacrificial death on the cross. In Revelation, we see God’s people drawn from every tribe, nation and language and in John’s Gospel we find Jesus claiming his Bride from among the Gentiles.
Matthew and John offer us very different portraits of Jesus, but both in their different ways are firmly rooted in the Old Testament. The more we ourselves are rooted in the Scriptures of both Old and New Testaments the greater will be our appreciation of all that God has done and longs to do for us through his Son.
It is my prayer that as you complete Word of Life, and perhaps begin for the second time, you will not only understand more deeply the message of Scripture but also be increasingly conformed to Jesus day by day.