As we move into chapter six, we transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The New Testament begins about 400 years after Malachi (the last book of the Old Testament) was written. The New Testament covers the birth, life, and death of the long awaited Jewish Forgiver. It also gives a play-by-play, front-row view of the launch of the early church by two primary leaders: Peter and Paul. The book ends with a final snapshot of God‟s view of the end of time.
Many people perceive that “Old Testament God” was angry and vindictive. Others perceive Jesus as the nice guy who comes on the scene and says, “Sorry about my Dad.” After our Fast Track through the Old Testament, hopefully you came away with a different view of God. Old Testament God is the same loving, merciful, patient God found throughout the entire Bible. His nature never changes. Jesus didn‟t apologize for His father. He constantly bragged about, introduced people to, and encouraged people toward His loving Heavenly Father. God loves His children and has relentlessly pursued them, longing to pour affection upon them.
The first four books of the New Testament cover the same basic material from four points of view. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John documented the period of time from Jesus‟ birth to death to final resurrection. Each of them are historically-reliable, separate reports documenting the reality that Jesus lived, taught, and defeated death once and for all. Each author had a slightly different purpose and emphasis: Matthew wrote to a primarily Jewish audience and emphasized that Jesus was the long awaited King and Messiah promised by God through the prophets. Mark wrote for Greek readers, showcasing Jesus as the suffering servant, drawing attention to His others-focused life and humility. Luke, a first-rate historian and physician, wrote his report in letter form to a friend named Theophilus. Luke‟s account of Jesus‟ life is the result of a multi-year process of interviewing eyewitnesses, gathering evidence, and confirming historic details. John wrote his account years later for a wider audience, emphasizing the signs that proved Jesus‟ claims tobeGod. John declares that Jesus provides the only way to truly know God, find forgiveness, and defeat death.
The theme of Jesus‟ teaching is simple: don‟t try to measure up, but rather look up for forgiveness. Religious leaders of the day were teaching a false interpretation of the Law. They taught that if humans tried hard enough, prayed long enough, and followed the rules closely enough, they could measure up to God‟s standards. The problem with this view (besides its inherent falseness) is that it always created two emotions: fear and pride. Either you were proud that you measured up one day and looked down on others who didn‟t work as hard; or you were fearful that you would never measure up and disappoint God.