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Who Are We?

September 3, 2010

The short answer Jesus might have given to the question of identity is: we are Israel, the chosen people of the creator god. More specifically, we are the real, the true, Israel, in the process of being redeemed at last by this god, over against the spurious claimants who are either in power or mounting alternative programmes.

This is the message on the edge of every story, at the heart of the symbolic renewal. ‘Blessed are those who. . . for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; they shall inherit the earth; they shall see God; they shall be called the sons of God.’ ‘You have been given to know the secrets of the kingdom.’ ‘ I thank you, Father, for revealing these things to babes.’ ‘I assign you a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’ The call of the twelve makes it clear enough; the thrust of the major stories, such as the prodigal son, emphasizes it from another angle. Jesus and the people around him, his motley group of followers, either constitute the real Israel or they are nothing. They are the returned-from-exile people, the people who at last know YHWH and are known by him, the new-covenant people whose sins are forgiven, at whose coming into existence the angels sing for joy. That is their whole raison d’etre.

N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, p. 443-444.

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