Summary: Three facts to help us understand why the nation of Israel rejects Jesus as their Messiah.
Note: This sermon was introduced by the drama "The Perfect Bonds of Love").
God has a plan. It’s a plan that started at creation, and it has continued even when human sin corrupted God’s wonderful creation. It’s a plan that’s taken lots of twists and turns along the ways, a plan full of surprising heroes and unexpected villains. God’s plan is a grand story, what postmodern people today call a metanarrative, a story that makes sense of the world and all of our stories.
But there’s a problem with this grand story of God’s unfolding plan. And it’s this problem we’re going to start to tackle this morning. It’s the problem we saw raised in the drama, the problem of why Jesus’ own people rejected him.
Today we begin looking at one of the most difficult controversial parts of the Bible, the ninth chapter of Romans. Friendships have ended because of disagreements over how to understand Romans 9. Churches have split, pastors have been fired, and people have been excommunicated based on how they understand the ninth chapter of Romans.
We’ve been in a series through the New Testament book of Romans called "Good News for Our Times." In chapters 1 to 4 of Romans we looked at "the Good News about God’s Integrity." In chapters 5 to 8 of Romans we looked at "the Good News about God’s Love." Today we start our third major section of Romans, chapters 9 to 11 of Romans. The key theme of these three chapters of Romans is "the Good News about God’s Faithfulness." As much as we might struggle to understand specific details of this part of Romans 9, the key theme of these chapters is that God is faithful to keep his promises. We can trust God to do what he promises to do. If we don’t lose sight of the fact that God’s faithfulness is the major theme of this section, then no matter how we understand the particulars, we’ll keep the main thing the main thing.
Today we’re going to first look at a dilemma in God’s grand story, and then we’re going to look at three facts that can help us solve this dilemma.
1. The Dilemma (Romans 9:1-4a).
Let me start by just stating the dilemma we find in this section of Romans: IF JESUS FULFILLS GOD’S PROMISES TO ISRAEL, WHY DO THE JEWISH PEOPLE REJECT JESUS AS THEIR MESSIAH?
This is the dilemma Paul’s agonizes over in vv. 1-4a. We tend to think of Judaism and Christianity as two separate religions, but that’s not entirely accurate. Jesus himself was Jewish, from the tribe of Judah, circumcised in the Jewish temple, and he grew up in a Jewish home going to synagogue every Sabbath. Although Jesus was critical of many things about the way the Jewish religion was taught in his generation, he lived his entire life by the Jewish torah. He celebrated the Jewish festivals like Passover and the Day of Atonement.
Jesus didn’t set out to start a new religion. You might think of the difference between a reformer and a revolutionary. A reformer tries to bring about change within a system, while a revolutionary tries to overthrow the system and start something new. Jesus was more like a reformer than a revolutionary. He wanted to help the Jewish nation be what God had truly called them to be.