Our Part in the Fifth Act

N. T. Wright, the New Testament scholar, helps me understand the Biblical story as a drama with five acts.  The first act is creation, beautiful and good, Genesis 1-2.  The second act is the human rebellion against God (also known as the Fall), Genesis 3-11.  The third act is the entire story of Israel, from Abraham to the Messiah (Paul sketches this out in Galatians 3 or Romans 4).  The story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is the climatic fourth act of the drama, the hinge on which everything turns.  The fifth act is the story of the church beginning with the book of Acts, and this is where we live today.

Wright goes on to explain,   

When we read the story of Jesus, we are confronted with the decisive and climatic fourth act, which is not where we ourselves live – we are not following Jesus around Palestine, watching him heal, preach and feast with the outcasts, and puzzling over his plans for a final trip to Jerusalem – but which, of course, remains the foundation upon which our present (fifth) act is based.    Indeed, telling the story of Jesus as the climax of the story of Israel and the focal point of the story of the creator’s redemptive drama with his world is itself a major task of the fifth act. (The Last Word, N. T. Wright, p. 124)

This story structure is central to our understanding of scripture, how we read and interpret it.  We are still in the story and it has not been completely written, but the main outline is known.  Jesus’ death and resurrection is now our assurance that evil and death has been defeated.    We live in confidence that God has won the war.  There may be individual battles and struggles ahead, times we feel discouraged or in grief.   Yet God’s victory is assured.  The centrality of Jesus’ death/resurrection is why we retell over and over the Good Friday/Easter story every year.

That is also why we can read the story of John 11, the raising of Lazarus, as our story, thinking at times like Martha and Mary that death has won the day.  But we know that Jesus’ resurrection has happened and we live in that new reality.   A new creation is present now and will be fully realized in the future.

How has the story of Jesus become your story?

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