The central question of Israel’s faith in the first century boiled down to this: What must we do to provoke God to complete his project of salvation? It had been centuries since the temple – destroyed during the Babylonian invasion – had been restored, and yet the glory of God had not returned. Some attempts had been made at a restoration of the Davidic monarchy, but all had failed and Israel had was once again the vassal state of a grand empire (this time, Rome).
What was Israel doing, or failing to do, that was causing God to delay in his return to his people? (And the various factions within Israel that we hear about in the New Testament – Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots [and also the Essenes] – developed as they promoted their answers to this question.)
In this episode we examine Luke’s telling of the Christmas story and recognize within it all the elements of the OT prophetic descriptions of God’s return – a return that conforms to every promise of God and which sets the stage for the particular ministry of Jesus (a coming king who arrives not with force, but grace, not with vengeance but with love…).