It is amazing the role that the Jewish people have played in the history of the world. From them came monotheism, the understanding that there is only one God and not many; that while God the Creator is revealed in nature, nature is not itself god; that beyond the cycles of daylight and dark, seasons of the year, birth-maturation-reproduction-death, history moves from a beginning toward an end; that kings and governments are not themselves divine. Then we have from the Jews the great gift of Jesus who himself has to be understood against the background of a people who saw themselves as sons and daughters of God; aware of the divine presence among them; who had the covenants made by God with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David; who had the temple, the law and the prophets, God’s promises, the expectation of a Messiah, and God’s involvement in their history. Through Jesus we are heirs to all of this and we should value it. Jesus has to be understood against that background. For example behind the story of the feeding of the five thousand there lies the ancient Hebrew story of God feeding the people with food in the desert (Exodus 16:4). John’s Gospel explicitly links these two events together and points out that Jesus is the bread that nourishes eternal life (John 6:33-34). The story of Jacob wrestling with the angel mirrors the story of the Hebrew Scriptures, a people wrestling with God, the One who cannot be fully known (“Why is it that you ask my name?”) yet the One who knows us more fully than we understand ourselves (He gives Jacob a new name). However we no longer have to cry out in anguish, “God bless me”, for God has blessed us in Christ Jesus. Live in that blessing.
- Since our faith centres on Jesus, why do we continue to include the Old Testament in our Bibles?
- Paul expressed sorrow that his own people had, on the whole, rejected Jesus as the Messiah, Son of God. Are there people that you feel sorrow for because they have turned away from Jesus? Maybe you could pray silently for them.
- What message for today comes to you as you read the story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand?
- Have there been times when you felt as though you were wrestling with God?