Saturday, April 23, 2011

Listen First to Moses and the Prophets

The resurrection of Jesus will remain a mute, uninterpretable puzzle unless it is placed firmly within the Old Testament story of Israel. The disciples on the way to Emmaus had already heard it reported that Jesus was alive, but because they didn't know how to locate that report within Israel's story, it seemed like a curious and meaningless claim. Their incomprehension, I think, prefigures the interpretive helplessness of late modern readers and it exemplifies the grimly ironic dictum with which Luke's parable of the rich man and Lazarus concludes: "If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead."
That is our plight today. And I'm speaking not only of a post-Christian, pluralistic culture that doesn't know the Scriptures - I'm speaking also of the Church. For much of the Church today, Moses and the prophets belong to a closed and unknown book.
The good news of Luke 24, however, is that the story doesn't end in incomprehension and hermeneutical failure, because the one who rose from the dead teaches us anew how to listen to Moses and the prophets.
- Richard B. Hays 

As Churches across the globe prepare to speak of resurrection, perhaps in this time between Friday and Sunday it would be prudent and nourishing to listen first to Moses and the prophets. The resurrection of Jesus is not only the beginning of a new history but the climax of an old history. A pressing task within evangelical kerygma and scholarship is helpfully exploring the tension between "Jesus's gospel" and "Paul's gospel". The key to fruitful exploration (and therefore to a faithful evangel) is listening to Moses and the prophets afresh. For as Jesus heralded Moses and the prophets as a witness to his death and resurrection, so Paul also puts them on the stand: "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it..."

The resurrection is a "witnessed to" event. The apostles witnessed to it, and the Church today lives as a witness to it. But, as Hays brings to our remembrance, there is a third witness - Moses and the prophets. We leave this testimony unheard to our peril, for if we do not listen to Moses and the prophets then neither will we be convinced should someone rise from the dead.

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