Remember how Scot McKnight had identified a core gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15? Of course you do. Remember how it goes? That’s right: Paul’s gospel, as articulated in 1 Corinthians 15 is basically the passion narrative. It’s the story of Jesus. Having established this, then taking a brief detour through history, Dr. McKnight now returns to the actual gospels, asking whether that same Pauline message might be found there.
McKnight frames the question in these ways: “Did Jesus claim Israel’s Story was fulfilled in himself? … Did Jesus preach himself? … Did Jesus make his kingdom message center on his own role in the Story of Israel?” (79). If so, then Jesus preached the gospel, for the gospel was the notion that Israel’s long history was reaching its zenith and purposed end in Jesus himself.
McKnight is clear that indeed each gospel writer aims to tell the story of Jesus as the fulfillment of Israel’s story. He is also clear that the other elements of the story that we have elevated to the level of gospel are in fact just specific aspects of the larger gospel narrative. “What becomes patently obvious to the reader of any of the Gospels is that they do not tell us the Plan of Salvation, and neither do they offer to us a Method of Persuasion. Instead, … they narrate the Story of Jesus in a way that shows that Jesus completes Israel’s Story in a way that the story is a saving story” (82, emphasis original).
This is an important point. The gospel is, of course, a salvation story, but we need to be clear on why it is a salvation story – and this is among the sub-themes running through McKnight’s work. There is salvation in the gospel story because Jesus is implementing the good and just rule of the Creator, because Jesus is rising to the place of lordship over the whole earth, because Jesus affords all the opportunity to join the New Creation through his own work. That is salvation, and it is a portion of the much larger story.
Now, for most of this particular chapter, McKnight focuses his attention on the fact that half of each gospel book centers on Passion Week, just as Paul’s 1 Corinthians 15 gospel had been succinct in recalling the death, resurrection, appearance, and ascension of Christ. The gospel, then, is just that: the narrative (and, for McKnight, primarily the passion narrative). Its effects and multifaceted implications must not be separated from the basic story.
Tomorrow: How the actual life of Jesus fulfills Israel’s story.