Gospel: John 3. 1-17 Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, approaches Jesus and before he can even ask, Jesus tells him in order to see the kingdom of God he must be born again, born of the Spirit. Jesus says that God loves the world so much that He sent His only Son to save the world.
The liturgical season of Pentecost, which we are entering, lasts about 6 months, until Advent in December. I would like to devote the Reflections during this season to some of the interesting new insights that our world-renowned Anglican theologian, Bishop N.T. Wright, has found in his penetrating study of the Scriptures. Wright is an historian of the first century, a retired bishop of the church of England, a prolific author, and at present a professor of New Testament at St. Mary’s Seminary of St. Andrews University in Edinburgh. He says that the Israelites after return from the Babylonian exile believed that they were living in the great narrative which arched from the creation of man to the New Testament and beyond. This several thousand year story, Wright says, can be understood as a five act play. The first act is the creation (Genesis 1-2). The second act is the fall (Gen 3-11). The third act is the story of Israel BC from the call of Abraham and the covenant through the Tanakh (the Jewish Scriptures we call the Old Testament). The fourth act is the New Testament and the story of Jesus, His birth, life, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. The fifth act is the history of the world since the days of Jesus, the world in which we are living. His life (Act 4) was the culmination, the fulfillment, of the nation of Israel which had been called into existence by YHWH to overcome evil and the effects of the fall, and to restore His relationship with mankind that had been disrupted by the disobedience of Adam and Eve. The long, sad story of Israel finally found fulfillment in God Himself who taking the form of a Man, Jesus of Nazareth, came to inaugurate the kingdom of God and to lay down His life to defeat the satan and win the victory over the evil unleashed in the world by Adam and Eve’s disobedience and the long entail of sin that corrupted their descendants. We are living in the fifth act following the previous acts of Israel’s story and its denouement in Jesus the Messiah. Our present task is to carry the story forward to the conclusion described in Rev 21 and 22 by improving the world to the best of our ability through the power of the Holy Spirit which proceeds from the Father and the Son. We are living in the kingdom of God, the church, ruled by the Son as His image-bearers commissioned to be a royal priesthood to establish the kingdom. We have been made aware of the Father’s will and His nature through Scripture and have been given the will and the power to be actors in this fifth act of the drama of bringing His kingdom into existence by the Spirit of the Son dwelling in us. Jesus Christ, the living God, has defeated the powers of evil and has begun the work of new creation (Gal 6.15; 2 Cor 5.17) through the members of His body as His agents under God’s authority mediated through Scripture. The goal is the full and complete new creation gloriously anticipated in Jesus’ resurrection and described in Rev 21 and 22.
Memory Verse: He made us accepted in the Beloved…having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth–in Him (Eph 1.6-10).