I launched my new poem, "Given." Words here.
Together with Andy Bannister we attempted to answer the top 5 hardest questions asked by the Unbelievable listeners (Why hell? What about OT wars? Can we trust the Bible? Why isn't God more obvious? and What about other religions?).
I led a seminar on how to reach out online. This meant I could share one of my favourite comedy videos to teach about the difference between yelling at cardboard cut outs and truly interacting with people:
And at the end of the day I was part of a panel discussion. My questions to answer were about sexuality, hell and Israel. My answer to the Israel question was just forming as I was speaking, but on the train on the way back a clearer answer crystalised. So here's what I wish I'd said...
QUESTION: My friend was talking about Israel and I wanted to make our discussion something that pointed to Jesus, what should I say when the topic comes up?
(Note the questioner was not talking about the political state of Israel nor Zionism nor the events of the last week. This was not about the IDF or Gaza but of the ethnic people group, Israel, more generally).
The existence of Israel in the world is like the existence of two other remarkable facts. There's the extraordinary suffering and success of ethnic Israel; there's the extraordinary suffering and success of the person of Jesus; and there's the extraordinary suffering and success of the church.
Each of these three are peerless in their category. Israel is unmatched in the category of ethnic people groups. Jesus in unmatched in the category of historical persons. The church is unmatched in terms of global communities.
Israel has endured remarkable suffering, not just in the last century but from their days in Egypt onwards. At the same time it's incredible that they exist. I've never met a Moabite or a Hittite but I know many Jews. And the success of this proportionately tiny people group is incredible. One example: 22.5% of Nobel laureates have been awarded to Jews who represent 0.2% of the world's population. Incredible suffering and incredible success.
Jesus famously endured remarkable suffering. Above all things he is depicted as crucified and his biographies are dominated by his suffering and death. At the same time he is the most successful leader in history. Down through the ages and across the globe billions have followed him. Incredible suffering and incredible success.
The Christian church is the most persecuted group on the planet and at the same time the most successful sociological movement the world has ever seen. It continues to grow in the world in spite of opposition, in fact it seems to grow most where opposition is harshest. Suffering and success together.
Now let's put these three things together. In 2000BC Abraham is told that his offspring will suffer and succeed (Genesis 15:13-15). According to the flesh the offspring of Abraham is Israel. Singularly the offspring of Abraham is Christ (Galatians 3:16). Spiritually and corporately the offspring of Abraham is the church — those united to Christ (Galatians 3:29).
This means that the extraordinary suffering and success of Israel (Abraham's ethnic offspring) and the extraordinary suffering and success of the church (Abraham's spiritual offspring) are pointers to the extraordinary suffering and success of Jesus (Abraham's singular offspring) — and it was all predicted in 2000BC!
Standing in history are an ethnic people and a spiritual community that demand explanation. And the best explanation is the suffering and success of the most extraordinary man who ever lived: Jesus. Let Israel and the church lead you to Christ.
Anyway, that's the answer that crystallised for me on the train on the way back!
A great day, well done Premier for putting it on, and stay tuned for details of how to view the content.