There is one complaint which is often repeated in Jersey – amongst folk who take time to think, not amongst those who don’t.
“I like the God of the New Testament – the God of love - but can’t stand the God of the Old Testament – a blood-thirsty God, totally different.”
This is a very real problem. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons why folk (in Jersey as well as elsewhere) have nothing to do with the Jesus of the New Testament. Jesus’ own teaching - “I and the Father are one” and “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” - has become a reason to reject him and his Father. The persuasive argument is that if the Old Testament describes the Father of Jesus then it’s better to have nothing to do with Jesus.....
But, when Jesus said “whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, he was in fact making the opposite point. He wanted us to see his Father, the God of the Old Testament, as being exactly like himself – full of grace and truth..
Nevertheless the problem remains. The Old Testament “God” is unacceptable in the Jersey of 2012. So, therefore, is Jesus Christ – despite his submission to cruel dishonourable crucifixion – in order to bless his enemies.
As soon as Jesus entered upon his public ministry in AD 30 he decided to return to the no-good town of Nazareth where he’d been brought up. He did so in order to explain the Old Testament problem. He would do that by reading a Scripture from the Jewish National Archives. The scroll was the book of Isaiah – an Old Testament book written around BC 710.
Jesus unrolled the scroll at chapter 61. He read its opening sentences. He stopped reading in mid-sentence. Had he continued to read, the next words (after “...to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour...”) would have been “...and the day of vengeance of our God.”
Why stop in mid-sentence? Why then roll up the scroll and return it to the attendant? Why then sit down?
No wonder those present that Saturday morning looked intently at him. Will he explain? Instead Jesus began to say, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” But it was only a part of this 750 year old Scripture. It was only a truncated, half-truth extract. Has these spoken words misrepresented their promised Messiah and his magnum opus?
Clearly that day, that very “Today”, marked a turning point, a fulcrum of history. From that very day began a long period of time during which the “vengeance of our God” (as disclosed so graphically in the Old Testament in God’s dealings with evil in the ancient world) would be postponed.
This was not to say that God would not allow (as we see today in our AD world) the consequences of evil to be seen and experienced in all their fearfulness. Folk need to see the consequences of their own self-orientated desires – and the consequences of those desires upon others. Awful.
But God’s vengeance is postponed. From the cross onwards – and until now - is “the year of the Lord’s favour.” Time for mind-change. Time to decide whom to follow in this world: those with weapons to secure their own ends – or the man who succumbed to all weapons, to all evil.
Time to seek forgiveness. This is” the year of the Lord’s favour.”