“The Story of the Bible”

We are coming up on the season of Advent, a time when we prepare ourselves for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. 

Why is that such a big deal? 

Why is the birth of Jesus significant to those of us who call ourselves Christian? 

The short answer is 
because He is the “Messiah,” 
which the Hebrew Scriptures foretold. 

The Messiah is actually the unifying plotline weaved throughout the thirty-nine different books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament which make up the Protestant Bible we currently have in our pews. 

I grew up in a Chritian tradition that viewed the Bible systematically. Where the minister takes the story and systematically fits it into your life today. For example, how many of you have heard a sermon on David and Goliath and have had the minister ask you, who are the giants in your life? What are your smooth stones? This may have its place, however, I have been reading and studying and now realize the purpose for the Hebrew Scriptures, which we call the Old Testament, each narrative, each poem, each psalm contains elements that connect back to the beginning, Genesis chapters 1 & 2, and humanity’s need for a Messiah. 
Now to be fair, in order to find this thread that leads back to Genesis, it helps if you are a Hebrew scholar. So I am going to ask you to trust me and bear with me as I present this different way of reading the Scriptures. It may be a new paradigm for some of you, like it has been for me. The claim is that all the main themes of the stories of the Bible are Messianic. They come to their fulfillment in the life, death, resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Which brings us to the importance of Advent and the focus on the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. 

This week I want to focus on the Bible as a unified epic narrative that leads to Jesus. Next week I will focus on the meaning and person, the Messiah. 

The Bible we have in our hands today is made up of the Old Testament and New Testament, which themselves are made up of many books. 
Their literary styles consist of ancient history, poetry and letters written over the span of fifteen hundred years. That in itself is significant. But then we add to that there were over a cast of a hundred people over this period of time, it leaves us with the questions, How did it come together and make sense?

As far as that goes, how many times do we read it and try to make sense of it? 

Let’s begin with the most prominent type of literature of the Bible, the narrative. The book opens, in Genesis, with the words, “In the beginning,” and the second to the last paragraph, in Revelation, concludes with, “and they reigned forever and ever.” The narrative form  is composed of five hundred and two chapters, or forty-three percent of the text. That is almost ½ of the Bible! 
Poetry comes in a close second with having thirty-three percent of the Bible, or three hundred eighty-seven chapters. 

Here’s the amazing realization: despite the Bible’s diverse set of literature and authors and that it may seem fragmented, in reality, it ultimately presents itself as “a unified epic narrative that leads to Jesus.” I take this directly from the motto of the “Bible Project,” an on-line, crowd funded project helping people like me understand the Bible. I encourage you to take a look at their website or listen to one of their podcasts. I use the 25 minutes each day it takes me to get to Friendship Village School and it has me thinking and praying and seeking to understand God’s Word more and more each day. 
Let’s see if I can break this down by drawing for you the Plot Diagram I provide my sixth grade students when we discuss literature. (draw the plot diagram on easel paper). The entire Bible has one plotline, the need for a Messiah for all of humanity. Fortunately, we are living on the other side of the climax of the story. With this premise in mind, one can pick up the Bible and begin reading at any point, and ask the question, “How does this lead to Jesus, the Messiah?” or “How did this lead to Jesus, the Messiah?” depending on whether you are reading in the New or Old Testament. 

It may help if I explain how the story of the Bible works. There are six overall sections, three for each testament, which all refer back to the first two chapters of Genesis, which is, 
Section 1. The Creation and the Royal Task

The premise of the entire Bible is told to us in the first two chapters of Genesis. You know the story, God confronts chaos and with His Word, creates a wonderful, ordered world, full of beauty and potential. God gives this world to humans and asks them to oversee the creation, multiply and create new communities. 
Such fun! 
Walk with God, take the beautiful world God created and develop all of its potential. All the while, living in harmony with God and with each other. Until…..

Section 2. Rebellion and the Fallout

Humans were eventually faced with the choices about what is good and what is evil. Would they trust God or would they seize autonomy and choose to define good and evil for themselves? 
This is where the antagonist appears, representing evil at its source. It is successful at enticing humans to doubt God’s generosity and to rebel. 
The results – disaster! 
Humanity’s relationship with God is severed, along with their relationships with each other and the earth. 

Section 3: God’s Covenant with Israel

However, God, the protagonist, who is greater than evil, prevails. The tension between the just and generous creator God and the rebellious nations who have given into evil are what drives the storyline of the entire Bible. God’s response to this storyline is a plan to restore His divine blessing to the whole world. God chooses to do so through the one family chosen among all the nations, the people of Abraham, who later become Israel. 

We have spent time reading about the Israelites and their relationship with God. The people of Israel become the first main subplot of the Biblical story. You are familiar with the subplot, we have read enough of their story to give an outline. 

Subplot Movement One: God Chooses Israel to Bless the Nations
God makes a promise to Abraham to bring them into the land where they will become the nation that brings God’s blessings to the world. They become enslaved in Egypt. God raises up Moses to free God’s people and brings them to Mt. Sinai where they enter a covenant. 

Subplot Movement Two: Israelites Royal Failure
Turns out the Israelites weren’t very good at keeping their side of the covenant. They began worshipping the gods of the nations around them. Even their best kings, David or Solomon fail miserably. They end up exiled to Babylon.

Subplot Movement Three: Israel’s Exile and the Prophetic Hope
Israel continues to sin but all is not lost. God provides prophets. They are the ones who warn of Israel’s downfall, but they were also the ones who made it clear, this was not the end of the story. God was the God of second chances, and He always keeps His Word. He had promised to restore divine blessing to the world through this family and there was nothing that was going to stop Him. 

The storyline of the Old Testament ends but not without the hope that a great leader would come and lead Israel in faithfulness to their God, a Messiah. 
The ending is a cliffhanger!

Section Four: Enter…. Immanuel…. God with Us!

Jesus of Nazareth, the four Gospels, in the New Testament present Him as the resolution, the climax in our narrative plot. The very love of God, becoming human, had become the embodiment of divine mercy. Jesus was the kind of human we were all meant to be, but had perpetually failed at being. He proclaimed He was the Messiah, the one to restore all humanity. He would do this by confronting evil. His plan was to defeat humanity’s evil and sin by letting it defeat Him. After dying for the sins of the world, His resurrection from death provided a way for victory over all of our evil and death. Amen! 
His righteous life is now offered as a gift to those who would follow Him. 

Section Five: The Power of the Holy Spirit

Following the resurrection of Jesus, His followers experienced the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling them with His presence in Jerusalem. A movement began of multi-ethnic proportions that flourished especially among the poor. Small communities, called churches, would gather to celebrate their new way of life as redeemed humans enjoying an intimate renewed covenant with God. Much of the New Testament is made up of letters from Jesus’ appointed leaders called, “apostles.” They were written to all different kinds of churches to show them what it meant to participate in Jesus’ kingdom in the first century world. 
They continued to look to the day when Jesus would return to finish what He had started. 

Section Six: The Return of the King

All Christians await the return of Jesus to consummate the kingdom of God, and complete the redemption of our world and set all things right.  When He comes, He will fully confront and deal with evil in all of its manifestations, and remove it completely, returning the world to good. He will make all things new and those from all nations, who submit to His love and justice will be invited to join Him. It is then, humans will return to Genesis, chapters 1 & 2, taking care of the garden, in the presence and goodness of God, forever. 

In the meantime, we have been directed by the Messiah Himself, to wait expectantly, and to be prepared. 
And while we are waiting, we are to remember the hope we have, the hope of glory, in the price that was paid for our sins and the resurrection of the faithful Israelite who fulfilled God’s promise through His death on a cross, so that you and I may one day be a part of His everlasting Kingdom. 

We celebrate that hope today through remembering the Lord’s Supper.