Thursday, 18 December 2008

The Strange Christological Excess of the Old Testament (Part II)


John the Baptist's own expectation of the messiah is another case in point of the strange fulfillment that Jesus brought to the expectations of his day. Advent 3 had the interrogation of the Baptist by the Jerusalem authorities as related in the Gospel of John, where he did not deny but confessed that he was not the light. But we know that before the Baptist died he questioned whether Jesus really was the messiah. (Matt 11:3-6) (Interestingly, Jesus didn't doubt the authenticity of John the Baptist as the one who was to prepare the way. [Matt 11:7-15]) John's preaching would suggest that he expected a messiah who was to bring damnation and judgement, with the possibility of salvation for a few. Jesus, on the other hand, seemed to be a prophet primarily of forgiveness and acceptance, with the possibility of damnation. In Lk 4:16-21, Jesus announces his manifesto in the words of the prophet Isaiah (61:1-2), but omits the last half verse, "and the day of vengeance of our God." Vengeance is not absent in the preaching of Jesus, but it is subordinated to the forgiving love of God. The Old Testament knows that God's ways with Israel cannot be encapsulated within the punishment/reward cycle of straight law, but Jesus takes this to an unexpected crescendo.

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