Seventeen years ago, the very first Lord of the Rings movie came to theatres. And when that first movie was released, one of it’s significant effects was to cause a new generation of young people to become interested in the books, written by J.R.R. Tolkien, from which the movies were adapted.
I was one of those young people. I had never read the books because I didn’t think they’d be interesting. But then I was seeing all the posters and promo hype for the movie and thought, I need to get in on this.
So I headed down to the library, and not surprisingly, all the copies of The Fellowship of the Ring were checked out. I was not the only person getting swept up in the hype. But the second and third books were sitting there on the shelf, and I was impatient, so I took them out and started reading at book two.
I don’t recommend beginning a trilogy a third of the way in. Even though that second book began with a short synopsis, which gave a broad-strokes summary of what happened in the first book, I had no idea what was going on for so much of it. I didn’t know who most of these people were and what they were talking about and why they were doing what they were doing.
Because I didn’t know what had happened first, and I didn’t really know where I was in the story, I couldn’t really understand what was going on right where I was reading.
But then came that wonderful day then the library called and told me that the first book was back in stock. So then I went back and read that first book, and suddenly everything made sense. Now I knew the whole story, and who all these people were, and what was all going on.
But then I went further. Because, as some of you know, the Lord of the Rings trilogy is just one part of a bigger world created by J.R.R. Tolkien, and there’s a huge backstory found in books like the Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. And so I read those books. I even went on to read a whole book of Tolkien’s letters where he explained things more in depth. I even started to try to learn the Elvish Languages that he invented.
Now, before you judge me too much for all this nerdiness, I was only seventeen, and believe me: back in those days, being a Lord of the Rings expert could make you very popular with the ladies.
That sounds like a joke, but the truth is that because I knew all these things from Tolkien’s other books, my friends would ask me questions to help them better understand the backstory to the movies that they had enjoyed. Because I could help them understand who certain characters were, and how Gandalf is actually an angel in human form (so he’s not really a wizard), and why the elves were going on those boats, and so on.
Knowing the big story, I was able to help my friends make sense out of the smaller story and how it all fit together.
But in the end, none of that really mattered. It’s just fantasy, a world and a story that someone with a powerful imagination made up. Whether or not you ever read or enjoy or understand the Lord of the Rings doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of your life.
But what if there’s another story that does matter? Another story that’s not made up, but is actually real? Another story that’s been being told from the beginning of time until now? And what if you and I are actually a part of this story, and we’re in the telling of it right now? What if all of our lives and all of our stories were actually little parts of the biggest story ever told?
If that were true, then knowing this story—knowing what’s happened in this story up until now, and where we are in it—would not just be interesting, but would be absolutely essential to understanding the world around us and our place in it and what we’re supposed to do next.
I’m using the words “what if,” but I hope you know that all of this is true. There is a story, a true story, that’s been being told from the dawn of time up until now. It’s the story that God planned in eternity past, and started writing when He said “Let there be light.” It’s the story that God has been telling as he’s been sovereignly overseeing world history and weaving the plan of redemption through it all. It’s the story that we’re all a part of. And it’s the story that’s written down and unfolded for us in the Bible.
The Bible is One Story
The Bible is One Story
Long before I ever opened the Lord of the Rings, I read the Bible. I grew up in a home where my mom was diligent to read and discuss the Bible to us. When I was still young, she felt burdened to read it to us from cover to cover. So we did that. It took us a few years, but we did it.
So by the time I was 11 or 12, I had listened to every single word of the Bible being read to me. And along the way, my mom would explain certain things to us, and help us understand as best as she could.
And so I had a rough idea that all the elements in the Bible were related to each other somehow. I understood that the Bible had a progression from creation to the fall into sin to the redemption in Christ to the restoration that God has promised when He will make all things new one day. I understood in the broadest of strokes that the Bible was one unit.
But that was about it. Past that point, I didn’t really know how the Bible was connected together, and how the different stories in the Bible—David and Goliath, Jonah and the Whale, Jesus healing lepers—all fit together to tell one consistently unfolding story.
And I also didn’t really understand how that one story was connected to our story. I didn’t understand that the story told by the Bible is still ongoing, and that world history and current events and even my life were all a part of this one big story.
And what I found as I grew up and visited and spoke in many different churches and camps and Christian settings was that I wasn’t alone. I’ve met many wonderful people of God who have been reading the Bible their whole lives and have never been taught how it all fits together and tells one story.
And so I can only praise God for the good teachers that He brought into my life. Preachers and authors and sermons and books that God used to open my eyes to the unity of Scripture, helping me understand how the Bible fits together into one big story, and how that story is still going on today, and how you and I fit into that story.
And I can tell you that the journey of learning about these things has been one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. It’s like for years all I had was a set of dots, and as I’ve learned more and more, those dots have begun to be connected to each other, and the most incredible picture has appeared.
And I want you to hear that the best part of this journey of discovery hasn’t been just knowing more stuff. The best part has been knowing and loving Jesus more.
Because this biggest story ever told is a story that can be summed up in one word: Jesus. And to know this story better is to know Jesus better, and to love this story more is to love Him more.
This shouldn’t really be surprising, because God has told us clearly in His word that everything is connected together and it’s all about Jesus.
Ephesians chapter 1 says that God has made “known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:9–10).
God’s plan for all time is to have everything in heaven and on earth be united under the lordship of the risen Christ.
Colossians 1 says that “all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” And then it says that “he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:16–18).
All things are from Jesus. All things are held together by Jesus. And all things are for Jesus. This greatest story ever told is all about Jesus. And it always has been. The Bible that I grew up reading, all those stories that I grew up listening to, were all ultimately about Jesus.
“The Things Concerning Himself”
“The Things Concerning Himself”
Just a few moments ago we read from Luke chapter 24, which picks up the the story on the day that Jesus rose from the dead. And Jesus Himself, who is hiding his real identity, is walking along with two of his disciples. And they’re telling him about His death, and their disappointment in that, and then they mention how some of them had gone that morning and found an empty tomb and some angels who said He was alive, but they didn’t see Jesus.
The sense you get, even by the fact that they are leaving Jerusalem, is that they don’t really believe the reports that Jesus was alive.
And Jesus, still disguising Himself, says to them in verse 25: “‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scripture the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).
Jesus calls them foolish and slow of heart for not believing that He rose from the dead.
But notice that he doesn’t say, “You should have believed your friends. You should have believed the angels. Do you think they’d lie to you? The tomb was empty, wasn’t it?”
But he doesn’t rebuke them for not believing the women or the angels. He rebukes them for not believing all that the prophets have spoken. This is talking about the writings of the prophets. He’s saying, you’re slow of heart to believe the Scripture, God’s word.
And then, beginning with the writings of Moses, which is Genesis and Exodus and Leviticus, the beginning of the Bible you hold in your hand, and all the writings of the prophets, all the way up to Malachi, he explained to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
When you think about the parts of the Bible that talk about Jesus, what parts do you think about? Probably what we call the New Testament, right? Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
But Jesus is saying that Moses and the Prophets—what we call the Old Testament—are all about Him. They had been telling one big story from the beginning of creation up until then, and Jesus is the fulfillment of that story. And His followers should have understood that. They should have gotten it!
Later on that day, Jesus appeared to his 11 apostles. And he said this to them, in verse 44, “‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’” And again, “the law and the prophets and the psalms” is a reference to the entire Old Testament Scriptures that they had.
Now look at verse 45: “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written [in those Scriptures!], that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:44–47).
The Scriptures- the Old Testament Scriptures from Genesis to Malachi- told that there would be a messiah, and that he would suffer, and that on the third day he would rise from the dead, and that Jerusalem would not be the end of his mission, like His disciples were all thinking, but the beginning of a global mission in which repentance and forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations.
And in my experience, many Christians don’t know this. Or at least they don’t know how this works. Many Christians, including me for years, could not open up the Old Testament and show someone else how it speaks about the death and resurrection and mission of Jesus. I just didn’t know how it all fit together and how it was all about Jesus.
And so that is one of the goals in this new series we’re beginning today. By the end of this series, I want all of us to be able to clearly understand, and then be able to show others, how this all works. How the Bible tells one story, and how it all points to Jesus.
How Does the Story Fit Together?
How Does the Story Fit Together?
Let’s start to take a swing at that this morning. Let’s start to ask, how does the Old Testament, the Jewish Scriptures from Genesis to Malachi, fit together and tell one story that culminates in Jesus?
The truth is that we can start almost anywhere. We can just start to tug at any one of the threads in the story, and we’ll find that it leads us right to Jesus. We can take a single idea like kingdom or temple or blood sacrifice and trace it out, and we’ll end up at the cross and the empty grave.
But if we actually look at how the Bible itself is written, the way that it unfolds, the way that it really stands together as a piece of literature, what we’ll find is that the Bible, like any other good story, doesn’t just have threads everywhere. Those threads form a pattern. The Bible has a central storyline. It has a main plot that builds and develops and reaches it’s peak in Christ.
And if we were to try to boil it down and say, “what is this central storyline, this main plot structure in the Bible,” we would need to use the word covenants.
A covenant, if you’re not familiar with that word, is a special relationship between two parties that’s held together by promises and commitments. Like marriage. Marriage is the one covenant that most of us are familiar with.
And if you read through the Bible you’ll see that God makes a series of covenants with people. He makes a covenant with Noah, and then Abraham, and then all of Israel through Moses, and finally with King David.
But what we need to understand is that these covenants aren’t just one part of the story. They’re not just threads in the tapestry. They are the pattern that we see when we step back and look at the tapestry as a whole. As some recent authors have said, the covenants form the backbone of the storyline of the Bible.
It’s like if were could condense the Bible down to a short novel with only a few chapters, each of those chapters would be one of the covenants. They are backbone of the storyline. They show us how the Bible all fits together and then comes together in Jesus.
A Summary of the Storyline
A Summary of the Storyline
So let me try to sum this story up for us so we can begin to see how this all works.
The story begins with God who created the world and made humans in His image to rule this world under Him in and relationship with Him. But Satan seduced them to rebel against God, and so they fell into sin, and dragged the whole creation down with them. In response, God promised a redeemer. He promised that there would be a a son born to a woman who would crush the head of the serpent.
But that snake-crushing son was not born right away. The story did not jump right ahead to the birth of Jesus. Instead, God let things get worse. Sin got out of control. And God punished the world with a flood, saving only one man and His family. God started over with Noah, who was like a second Adam, and God promised that He would never destroy the world with a flood again. In other words, God would use grace, and not just judgement, to deal with sin from then on.
And then God began to fulfill these promises when he called a man named Abram and made a covenant with Him. God promised him that he would be the father to many nations, and that from Him would come an offspring who would bring blessing to the whole world.
God took another step in fulfilling His promises when He called one of those nations that came from Abraham—the people of Israel—and lead them out of Egypt to Mt. Sinai where entered into a covenant with them and told them that they were to be His kingdom of priests for the rest of the world. They were to bring blessing to the nations as they lived in covenant with God.
But they failed, didn’t they. They disobeyed God and did anything but bring blessing to the nations. And so it was that God chose a young boy from the tribe of Judah, and made Him a king over Israel, and then made a covenant promise to Him that He would have a son always reigning on the throne. And through the prophets, God promised that this son of David would be the one to finally bring blessing to the nations and unite the whole world in worship and obedience to God.
And finally, after centuries of exile and wandering, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his own Son Jesus to be born of a woman. And in Jesus all the promises of God are yes and amen.
Jesus is the second Adam, the Father of a new humanity. He is the seed of the woman who crushes the head of the snake. Jesus is the offspring of Abraham, the one who brings blessing to the whole world. Jesus is the real temple and the high priest and the sacrifice of a new and better covenant, paying for our sins on the cross once and for all. And Jesus is the son of David, the promised king who is right now reigning forever just like God promised, and one day will sit on a throne on this very planet, and the kingdoms of this world will finally be the kingdoms of our God.
And this is the story we should have in mind when we open the New Testament and read the very first verse, Matthew 1:1: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
I read that verse many times over the years and always thought it was just a fancy way of saying that Jesus was born a Jew.
But it’s so much more than that. Because the whole story of the Bible is summed up in that one verse.
Jesus is the son of David. God made a covenant with David, promising Him a son who will rule forever, and Jesus is that son. Matthew 1:1 is announcing that the king of the world is here.
And Jesus is the son of Abraham. God made a covenant with Abraham and promised that through one of his offspring, the whole world would be blessed. And Jesus is that offspring. Matthew 1:1 is announcing that the one who will bring blessing to the whole world is here.
This is the story. And the story isn’t finished yet. Jesus reigns, but there’s still opposition to His rule. And He’s going to come back and crush that opposition and make all things new and dwell with us here, and He’s given his church a mission to fulfill before that will happen. So we have work to do.
And that’s where we find ourselves in the biggest story ever told.
Outline of this Series
Outline of this Series
So today we begin a series that will seek to tell this story. And so I want to give you a bit of an outline so you know what to expect in this series.
Next week we’re going to begin all the way back at the beginning- Genesis 1:1. And we’re just going to consider those words, “In the beginning, God.” Who was God back before everything was made? What was He doing? And why did He make everything—why did He decide to tell this big story in the first place?
And then the week following we’re going to consider creation, and God’s special purpose in making Adam and Eve. Then we’re going to talk about the fall into sin, and that that meant for Adam and Eve and God’s plans for the whole universe. Then we’re going to spend a week each walking through the covenants that we talked about earlier, digging into what they meant and how they each carried God’s kingdom forward and pointed towards the promised one.
Then, right around the beginning of November, we get to my favourite part of the series, which is Jesus. And there we’re going to spend seven weeks seeing how Jesus brought the kingdom of God, the reign of God on earth, as He fulfilled each one of those covenants. And so we’ll walk back through the story and see how Jesus is the last Adam and Jesus is the offspring of Abraham and Jesus is the Lamb of God and the son of David.
And then in the third part of the series, we’re going to spend almost four months, from January to April, asking, “where does all this leave us? Where are we in this story, and what does that mean for us today?”
If Jesus has come and fulfilled the covenants and brought us into the New Covenant and the Kingdom of God, then what does that mean for how we read the Bible and try and understand what God expects of us today? What does it look like for us to live as citizens of that kingdom while we also wait for His final return?
And most importantly, what would King Jesus have us do? What is our part to play in this story?
And so in those weeks we’re going to try to answer those questions by considering a number of passages in the New Testament that speak about twelve different aspects of the Christian life—from work and money to marriage and singleness and family to prayer and spiritual warfare and the law and mission—and try to better understand how the big story of the Bible applies to us, here and now, today.
And then, we’re going to look ahead to all that Jesus has promised in the future, and and see how everything in our life matters today because of everything that we have to look forward to.
And finally, our series is going to conclude on April 21, Resurrection Sunday, where we’ll celebrate and worship our risen King who is coming again just like He promised."
So, right now, after hearing all that, if your head hurts, that’s okay. You don’t need to remember everything I just said. We get eight months to go on this journey together, and we’re going to take it one week at a time. But I wanted to give you a sense of where we’re going and what you can expect.
But whether this is all review for you, or whether you’re hearing some of these things for the first time, I hope that this morning you’ve already begun to experience the effect on your soul that comes from remembering that you are a part of the biggest story ever told.
So often we’re tempted to make Christianity all about us. We know that Jesus is our personal saviour, but we stop there. We know our stories really well, and how Jesus has redeemed our stories, but we stop there.
And it’s all too easy for us to end up with a Christianity that is small, and personal-sized, and all about us.
We all need to be reminded of the fact that Jesus is our personal Saviour, but what makes that wonderful is that He’s so much more than that. He is also the Son of Abraham, and the Son of David, and the High Priest of the New Covenant, and the Lamb of God, and the second Adam who is in the process of crushing Satan’s head under his feet, and invites us to participate in that work with Him.
I think we all need to be reminded of the fact that our own stories are just one part of a much, much bigger story, a story that stretches back to Eden and forward to the New Jerusalem, and that this story is not about us. It’s about Jesus Christ.
And what I hope you’ve found, even this morning, is that this perspective changes things. It changes the way you go to work in the morning. It changes the way you look at your family and your money and your time. It will change the way you approach the congregational meeting here tonight.
This perspective makes sin look less appealing than it did before. It stops you in your tracks when you want to complain about something. And it helps us go on when we are suffering.
When Timothy was feeling discouraged by the hardships he and Paul were facing, Paul wrote him and said, in 2 Timothy 2:8–11, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David.”
Do you hear that? Do you hear how Paul helps encourage and spur on Timothy by reminding him about the biggest story ever told?
As you head into your week, as you walk through the front door of your workplace or your school tomorrow, remember. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David. Remember the story. Remember all that’s in store.
And as you remember, ask the son of David to give you the strength, the patience, the wisdom, and the grace you need. Ask Him to help you live your part of this story out in a way that brings glory to the main character, which is Him.