It Is Time (Part 4)
Perhaps the consummate Disney movie of my youth was The Lion King. You know the story, the masterful animated retelling of Hamlet accompanied by the sonorous tunes of Elton John. For a film of many memorable moments, one of my favorites has always been right at the end, when Rafiki tells Simba, “it is time.”
At long last, after much waiting, the Pridelands have a new King. At long last, Simba has returned, and the long wait is over. At long last, the King has arrived! What we see at this moment in The Lion King is a moment that all of us look forward to: the end of our waiting.
Most of us despise waiting. We want our food as soon as we pull up. We want our internet to load faster. We want to know news as it breaks. We’re long past ready for the pandemic to be over. And these are all things that we only have to wait minutes or months for. Imagine waiting hundreds or thousands of years to finally learn who your new ruler would be. For generations, that’s where God’s People found themselves—waiting and waiting. (And they didn’t have social media or interactive political maps to keep them busy while they waited.) But then, suddenly, the news came: the King is here!
God’s Story So Far
The arrival of the king after a long wait—that’s what we’re looking at in this article as we continue our look at God’s Story. As God speaks to us through Scripture, He doesn’t just deliver isolated tidbits of information: He tells a grand, overarching story about how He’s working in history for the salvation of the world. That’s the story that God tells throughout Scripture.
If you’ve missed the earlier parts of the story, that’s okay. So far we’ve seen how in the beginning God created the universe, but humanity brought distortion and death into creation. So God chose a people, who He shaped through time and circumstance…. This is where we ended last time—on the cliffhanger of waiting for God to show up again and do what He promised. Throughout the history of God’s people Israel, they wondered when God was going to show up, when God would crush the head of the serpent, when He was going to fix what was wrong with the world, and when their new king would arrive.
And while God’s People waited, some important political things happened. Throughout history, politics has rarely been enjoyable, but it’s almost always been influential. This was certainly true for God’s People as they waited and fell prey to several empires. Beginning in 722 BCE, Israel was conquered and controlled by the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Babylonian Empire, Persian Empire, Greek Empire, and (finally) the Roman Empire.
Although there were brief moments of revival and autonomy, by the first century, God’s People were kingless. Yes, they had rulers over them: primarily a puppet king named Herod who served at the will of the Caesar, the great Augustus in far-off Rome. But these weren’t their rulers—these weren’t people they served willingly. No, God’s People waited for their true king: a descendent of the great king David who would arrive in glory, throw off the tyranny of oppressive government, and lead God’s People forever. And it’s in this context that God’s Story reveals that the King arrives.
The life of King Jesus forms the climactic episode of God’s Story in Scripture, but on terms very different than those the People of God were expecting. Those of you familiar with the Christmas story know that King Jesus didn’t arrive as anticipated: He wasn’t born in luxury, but in a stable; He wasn’t born to the reigning King Herod, but to a craftsman and his wife-to-be. As He grew and began His work, King Jesus led not an army, but a band of fishermen and everyday people. He began His work proclaiming God’s Kingdom, yes—but as a teacher, not as a soldier. In the words of the beginning of the Gospel of Mark: Now after John [the baptizer] was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand—pickup your swords and fight the Romans with me! No: repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1.14-15) Jesus didn’t show up as the enthroned king, but a humble rabbi.
Rather than forcing Rome to capitulate, Jesus was actually more interested in recapitulation. Recapitulation is restating or redoing something. And the New Testament tells us that Jesus came to recapitulate—to redo—the parts of God’s Story that had gone wrong to that point. Adam was the first man—Jesus came as the new Adam to do right where Adam had messed up: For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5.19) Abraham was the Father of God’s people—Jesus was the new Abraham who established a people where everyone was welcome. Like He says in Matthew 12.50, For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. Moses was the lawgiver—as the new Moses, Jesus gave a different law: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another…. (John 13.34)
Jesus stood in the place of Israel—which, remember, was supposed to be an example to the whole world. Jesus showed the world who God is and what He’s like through His words and actions. One of my favorite examples of this comes in Mark 2.4-12, which goes like this:
And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
Did you catch what’s going on here? Jesus heals a paralyzed man—He pushes back the physical effects of the Fall, the physical distortion and pain that the man is experiencing. But more than just offering a physical solution, He gets to the heart of the matter: He forgives the man His sins. He takes care of the real problem—the brokenness that causes separation from God and spiritual death. Remember—the Fall is pervasive, affecting every human relationship. But through His work, Jesus shows that those relationships can be restored.
King Jesus came to make broken things whole, to make wrong things right—and He began that work by recapitulating the history of the People of God. Jesus stands in the gap—what was supposed to happen in God’s very good creation happens in Jesus; what was supposed to happen though Israel happens in Jesus. Jesus was not stained by the distortion of the Fall; He was not distracted by the missteps of God’s People as they had waited. Through His life and work, Jesus recapitulates and redeems God’s Story.
But that’s not all. In fact, it’s not enough to view Jesus as a good teacher or miracle worker—He did those things, yes. But He was much more than the great moralist that He’s often made out to be today. Because Jesus’ birth and life and miracles didn’t make Him King—His death and resurrection did.
This is one of the odd parts of the Christian story: the good news actually centers on some of the worst parts of the story. The innocent Son of God was brutally flogged, tortured, had spikes driven through His limbs, and was left to asphyxiate on His own bodily fluids. But that’s what Scripture communicates. It tells us that to fix what’s wrong with the world, to address our brokenness, to repair the distortion and death caused by the Fall, someone had to make things right.
The sinless Son had to take on sin in order that sinners might become sinless. In the words of Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen in The Drama of Scripture, “In this brutal event we see the mightiest act of God.” This is a vital part of the Good News of Christianity. King Jesus died for you. In the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15.3-4a: For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried… Of first importance, Paul says, is the news that Jesus died for your sins and was really and truly dead.
But that’s not the whole story. Because Paul continues the Good News: that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Corinthians 15.4-5) Not only did Jesus die, but He rose from the dead. If you’ve been around Christianity for any length of time, you’ve heard that before and probably become desensitized to it a little bit. But let’s not miss how incredible and insane this is: Someone who was fully and completely and totally dead—someone for whom the effects of the Fall had become reality—ceased to be deceased and came alive again. In the resurrection, the power of the Fall is broken—no longer does everyone who dies have to stay dead. King Jesus defeats the power of death and distortion in the world!
This is the critical moment in God’s Story, the hinge on which the entire story turns: In the beginning, God created the universe, but humanity brought distortion and death into creation. So God chose a people, who He shaped through time and circumstance, and when the time was right, He sent His Son Jesus to live, die, and rise from the dead. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection signal that the conflict in the story—the sin that mars creation—isn’t going to win. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection confirm Him as King—He’s in charge and nothing is going to stop Him. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is the turning point for God’s Story. This is the Simba-ascending-Pride-Rock moment.
This is the key, this is the big reveal, this is the center of the story: Jesus is the saving King! Because Jesus has died and Jesus has risen, the world has been fundamentally transformed. Because Jesus has died and Jesus has risen, you too can be saved from sin, sickness, and death. This is the heart of the Good News of Christianity.
So what does it mean for you? What does it mean for me? What does it mean for us? What do we do with part of the story? Let me suggest two takeaways:
First, get to know the King better. Whether you’ve known Jesus for your entire life or you’re hearing about Him for the first time, get to know Him better. Learn more about who Jesus is and what He’s done. Don’t just read the headlines—listen to the whole story. We’re taking the 30,000-foot view of God’s Story in this series but get into the weeds and dig into the details.
The best way to do this is to read the Gospels, the four accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection found in the Bible. You can start with either Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. But take some time and read through the Gospels. As I grew up in church, I only ever heard snippets about the life of Jesus. But I remember the first time I sat down and just read the gospels right through, how different from my normal experience it was and how Jesus came alive. Don’t just read me writing about the life of Jesus—engage Him yourself.
The second and even more important takeaway from this chapter of God’s Story is this: follow the King. Following Jesus isn’t just an intellectual exercise; it’s not just a feeling; it’s not just a decision that you make once. It involves all of who you are; it’s an ongoing relationship; a way of life; a journey; it’s a continual pledge of allegiance to the King.
Our world is filled with trouble and uncertainty. But even if we cannot tell what will happen next, King Jesus is in control. He’s the true king who gives power and hope, even when we don’t know what’s going on. So pledge allegiance to the Saving King. Trust in Him. Hope in Him. Rely on Him. Make the decision to follow Him.
Jesus is the saving King who has lived, died, and risen from the dead. This is the hinge of God’s story, the part on which everything else depends. But, as you might have guessed, it’s not the end of the story—there’s more yet to come. We’ll continue that in our next article, where we’ll look at the curious case of the “already and not yet” that the arrival of the King initiates.