Jesus the Representative
As the Representative, Jesus takes up the role of Israel (and even Adam) and, on their behalf, brings their failed history to its successful fulfillment. Set within the context of John the Baptist’s efforts to bring about the righteous remnant that was prepared for the separating judgment and transforming blessing of the one “coming after” him, John is understandably puzzled when Jesus comes to him for baptism. But Jesus’ reply (Matt. 3:15) implies that he viewed himself as the one who would bring about the very fulfillment of John’s ministry. That is, in his baptism, Jesus was identifying himself with the need of Israel and serving notice that he would bring about the long-awaited righteous remnant in himself—he was to be the remnant of one!—for it would be in his own life that the expectation of the righteous people of God would finally be realized.
His successful reenactment of Israel’s testings in the wilderness then demonstrates the truth of the divine identification of Jesus at his baptism—he truly is God’s Son and his Servant in whom the Lord takes great pleasure (Matt. 3:17; cf. Ps. 2:7; Isa. 42:1).
This remarkable representative grace is now available to his followers, for in his righteousness we are now invited to stand (Rom. 5:2).
Jesus the Redeemer
Set within the historical context of Judah’s exile and return, Jesus the Redeemer brings to culminating fulfillment the role and experience of Isaiah’s Servant of the Lord (cf. Isa. 42:1–9; 49:1–13; 50:4–9; 52:13–53:12). Accordingly, Jesus’ crucifixion brings to consummation the role of the righteous remnant by absorbing in himself the covenantal curse (cf. Deut. 28:32, 36–37, 41, 64–68), accomplishing the final atoning sacrifice for God’s covenant people. Jesus’ cross is therefore appropriately to be understood as the culmination of the exile of God’s people. God’s acceptance of Jesus’ suffering is then climactically affirmed in Jesus’ resurrection, which itself should be perceived as the climax of the return of God’s people from exile.
This is the grace of Jesus, the Redeemer. Not only has he successfully fulfilled the law’s demands for us, he has also borne the law’s curse on our behalf. As Paul exults, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1)!
Jesus the Restorer
As the Restorer, Jesus brings to fulfillment multiple covenantal hopes pertaining to the restoration of the nation from their brokenness and unfaithfulness. Several ministry actions are in view here. For instance,when he calls twelve men to be his disciples, Jesus is serving notice that he is beginning the fulfillment of the long-anticipated return from exile by all of God’s people (e.g., Isa. 11:11–12). Our own call to discipleship participates in this same restoring grace, now broadening out to include all people.
When Jesus sits down at the table with the wrong sort of people, he is acting out a living parable of God’s pursuing grace toward those who cannot purify themselves. Rather than contracting the defilement of those around him, Jesus inserts himself into their midst as the embodiment of God’s mercy that cleanses the impure. Jesus’ table invitation remains open also to us every day, even in our recurring defilement.
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