Seven years ago my husband and I adopted a toddler with attachment issues. One part of the adoption was obviously the legal requirements that included going to court, registering the adoption, changing his name and obtaining an unabridged birth certificate. Another part was grafting him into our family as a beloved son. For a toddler from a traumatic past who had deeply ingrained habits of self-preservation and mistrust, this was a necessary part of changing his story, his identity, and where he drew life, and love and trust from. The people of God have a similar story. They not only needed the requirements of the Law fulfilled. But, they also needed to be grafted into God as a beloved child.
Taking a closer look at the nation of Israel not only helps us see God’s character but lays the foundation for understanding God’s solution: What Jesus did and the depth and breadth of why it matters.
Binding the Imagery to Jesus
Jesus is our living, breathing picture of how humans were originally created to live dependently on God. He was a real laughing, crying, loving, healing, praying and suffering human … who was always in perfect relationship with His Father. Through His daily life, He did what Adam couldn’t do. He lived in perfect, faultless relationship with His Father, through the Spirit, as a human. He is the true image bearer who reclaimed humanity in His body through His perfect human life.
Scot McKnight shares that Jesus’ perfect baptism and wilderness experience re-does and restores Israel’s Red Sea and wilderness experience. Where they failed, Jesus gives the perfect faithful human response, rolling back history and restoring it. Jesus chooses twelve disciples and re-does and restores the tribes of Israel (who were meant to reflect God to the nations). Through the disciples, He will re-build the people of God in the Church – who will establish His kingdom and reflect Him to the nations. Through His life, Jesus did what Israel couldn’t do: He is the true image bearer who re-establishes the people of God in His body (the Church).
As a consequence of Jesus’ perfect human life and response to God, His death fulfils the righteous requirements of the Law. As a human, Jesus took our place on our side of the covenant. He offered the perfect response of faithfulness (that we were unable to offer) fulfilling the law. He identifies with us in our pain, suffering and death, and receives the consequences of our sin in dying sacrificially as our substitute and scapegoat (John 1:29, Isaiah 53:4–5). In his resurrection, He defeats death and Satan, and makes all things new. In Jesus, all the things that were distorted at the fall in humanity and creation were dealt with at the cross.
The torn veil in the temple tells us something real has changed! Hebrews 2 describes Jesus as our forever High Priest who presents us to God and the once and for all sacrifice for the sins of the people. Jesus carries away our sin and brings us into the Holy of Holies. Just as the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies with the names of the children of God on his breastplate, the Holy Spirit binds me into the body of Christ, and Jesus bares us through the torn veil into the Holy of Holies and the presence of the Father. Here, as our high priest and sacrifice, Jesus’ presence is perpetual intercession and mediation on our behalf.
In South Africa (where I live), most of the fruit growing is done in dry areas. Because of this, stoned fruit is often grafted into one kind of peach tree that has an extremely deep root system. When the fruit tree branches draw their life from the peach tree trunk and its root system, they live and bear fruit. Through grafting, they bear fruit abundantly. God has made us like this too. We are made to draw our life from Him. After the fall, our greatest need was to get our life back.
Colossians 1:15-20 says that all things were created through Christ and for Him, and that in Him all things are held together, for all things on earth and in heaven are reconciled in Christ. Theologian Julie Canlis explains that all things were created to have life in Jesus, not because of sin, but because of the way that God relates to humanity and creation. Life can’t be found apart from Him. Creation was made to be a place of relationship with God. This is key: our redemption fits into a larger story of God’s intent for us to be in communion and participate in his life. It’s not just about his death on the cross to pay for my sin. But in his life, death, resurrection, ascension and gifting of the Spirit, we (and all creation) are re-created and grafted into life and sustenance in Him as we were intended to be. We get our life back!
Jesus doesn’t bear witness to what God has done—He is what God has done!
Jesus undid what Adam did: in Adam we sin and die; “in Christ” we become righteous and live through faith. We don’t receive life, we receive Christ who is life (John 14:6). My life is in Him; hidden in Him. We don’t just believe in Him or serve Him: Our goal is to be in Him. Jesus is embodied in heaven in the presence of the Father and made available to us through communion by the Spirit. It’s not a one-time conversion, but a continual living and abiding in. It’s the imagery of the grafted vine: it’s the returning of the branch the apple is on, so it can draw life from the trunk. I now draw my life from a different source (John 15). It’s a change of Story!
Something to Ponder
Think through the different areas of your life: family, friendships, work, relaxation, finances, self-worth, memories, giftings, etc. In what areas are you drawing life from Christ? Are there areas where you are trying to draw life from a different source? Are there other stories you are living by? What could you do, or who could you talk to, to help you draw life from Jesus for these areas?
For further reading I recommend:
A Community Called Atonement by Scot McKnight