cross fireworks

Jesus’ Different Kind of Nation

God called Abraham to form a unique nation by which “all peoples of the earth will be blessed.” The unique call of the descendants of Abraham was to become a nation of servant-priests whom God would use to reunite the nations of the world under his loving Lordship.

The vision of a reunited humanity is hammered home with increasing clarity and strength throughout the OT. Jeremiah looks forward to the time when “all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the Lord.” Zechariah prophesies of a time when the Lord will “be king over the whole earth” so that he will be the only Lord confessed among the nations. And Joel prophesies of a time when God’s Spirit would be poured out “on all people.”

In Isaiah 55 the Lord announces that anyone from any nation who is thirsty or hungry can come and feast at his banquet table for free. He promises everyone who comes to his feast that he will bring them into the “everlasting covenant” that he “promised to David.”

In that same chapter, the Lord makes his global goal clear when he states how his chosen people will “summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you” because the Lord has endowed you with splendor. God’s goal was to bless Israel as a means of attracting all nations to himself.

This blessing through this different kind of nation comes as other nations are united under a divinely appointed king. In Psalm 72, we read how the author prayed for a day when “all kings” and “all nations” will bow down” to a king whom God will anoint. When this happens “all nations will be blessed through [God’s anointed king]” and “the whole earth” will “be filled with his glory.”

Through this king all the tribes and nations will be reconciled as they come to know the one true God. Through him God’s dream of a united human community reflecting his triune love will be finally realized.

When the New Testament announces that Jesus is the “Christ,” it is an announcement that he is the anointed one, as Christ means “anointed.” The NT also refers to Jesus as the Lord, not just of the Jews, but of all people. In him, all the prophecies about the nations being reunited will eventually find their fulfillment.

Most of the Jews of Jesus’ day were intensely nationalistic and were expecting a completely pro-Israel Messiah. They though the Messiah would lead Israel to victory over their Roman oppressors and would reestablish Israel as a sovereign nation under God. This is why people tried to force Jesus to act and speak to divisive political issues of the day. But he refused to weigh in on these debates.

Jesus would not let himself be co-opted by any nationalistic agenda—not even on behalf of God’s “chosen nation.” For the kingdom that Jesus came to establish is about fulfilling God’s dream of reuniting all the nations.

Jesus reveals that, where God reigns, national walls will be torn down and national distinctions rendered insignificant. “In Christ,” Paul says, “there is neither Jew nor Gentile.” In Christ “the dividing wall of hostility” has been abolished between groups of people and a “new humanity” has been created. A central aspect of this kingdom is manifesting the beauty of what it looks like for a people to be freed from defining one nation against other nations and to be reunited under the God who is Lord of all nations. Jesus is a different kind of king establishing a different kind of nation.

—Adapted from The Myth of a Christian Religion, pages 78-81

Image by Marcia Erickson

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