Completing the Prophets’ Picture

The saints who wrote the four holy gospels had an enormous task, namely to present to us the Person of Jesus Christ, the God-man.

The evangelists’ primary literary means for doing this was to recount the ways in which Christ fulfilled all the prophecies that had foretold His coming.

The prophecies express the beautiful vision of salvation. And yet, the picture does not come fully clear in the Old Testament books. Only when they were fulfilled in Christ did the meaning of the prophecies fully emerge.

The evangelists grasped this, and wrote their books in order to complete the Bible, to make the Old Testament make sense by writing the New.

The vision of the prophets included the healing of the blind and deaf, and many other miraculous works which transcend the fallen state of created nature.

Above all, the prophets foresaw the New Covenant as a whole: the state of reconciliation and friendship between sinners and the Creator, Who had previously been justly offended by sin.

This is why the four evangelists narrate the miracles worked by Christ as a series of preludes, leading up to the miracle of His death and resurrection. Faith in the New Covenant made in Christ’s blood is the ultimate miracle. It is the miracle of the restoration of the original friendship between God and man. This friendship, which we have by faith in Christ, is itself the foundation of all the many other gifts of the Creator, like sight and hearing, knowledge and wisdom.

“Days go by…It’s all we’ve been given”

–Keith Urban. Nice song. (Click on the play button on the right of the linked screen to listen. I would have linked to the video, but it is beyond tedious. I almost lost all enthusiasm for the song when I watched 15 seconds of the video. Better just to listen.)

If it were my song, which of course it is not, I would add a phrase to the words “you better start livin’.”

In Christ would fit nicely. “You better start living in Christ.”

Here’s another good DVD to watch. It’s Shakespeare. It’s an extremely clever “modernization.” It is a Leonardo-DiCaprio movie without too much nasty violence. It’s from back when Leo was young and skinny and absolutely to-die-for. It is PG-13, so if you are a child, don’t even think about pressing the play button below.


The preview makes the movie look more violent and racier than it actually is. There is one scene worthy of a serious wince. (Which isn’t even listed on the IMDd.com parents’ advisory page–as if a man dressed as a woman is not something we would want to be advised about.) On the whole, though, it is a refreshingly clean movie, and splendidly done.

Etan Thomas of the Washington Wizards, back from heart surgery
Etan Thomas, a.k.a. the Poet, of the Washington Wizards, back from heart surgery
Also…

The NBA season begins, and the Moses beards are proliferating.

…And, getting back to the subject of “Deus ex machina”…

A good plot should contain all the elements necessary to resolve itself. Introducing characters late in the game, or unknown facts that change the whole situation–this is dramatically unsatisfying. Hence the perjorative phrase, “Deus ex machina,” God coming out of a machine to fix everything. Lame.

But, of course, Deus Himself has the prerogative to come out of the machina. It is not “Deus ex machina” for God Himself to intervene in history. He actually is Deus. He is allowed.

Is this what He has done? Is the salvation of the human race by Jesus Christ a case of “Deus ex machina”?

We had fallen from grace. We were condemned to death. We were living pretty miserable lives, punctuated by occasional glimpses of goodness and beauty. Very occasional.

People seasoned their dried fish with ashes. Other people threw babies into volcanoes or spilled out birds’ innards to foretell the future. There were not many virtues being practiced. And there was no hope for eternal life.

Then the perfect man came, lived the perfect life, offered the perfect sacrifice, and promised the perfect gifts to those who believe in Him.

Seems like a bolt out of the blue. Seems impossible to anticipate. Deus ex machina?

Well…there WERE prophesies. Many of the Jews hoped for the Messiah. Even non-Jews looked for Him. The coming of the Messiah was not completely unexpected.

Keith Urban
Keith Urban
But we have to try to go deeper, back to God’s original Creation of the world.

It is certainly true that the coming of Christ was by no means inevitable. His coming was a free gift, a total surprise, never earned, never merited–purely gracious. No one could have anticipated that God Himself would become a man.

But the following is also certainly true: His coming is the fulfillment of Creation. Christ did not enter the world as a foreigner. He came to “what was His own.” All of creation is “for Him.” (quoting Sts. John and Paul) He came not to destroy, but to fulfill. This (in my humble opinion) is the great insight that makes St. Thomas Aquinas’ teaching so profound and so true.

The coming of God as a man is NOT Deus ex machina. It is the exact opposite: The coming of Christ makes everything else make sense. The plot was jumbled and confused BEFORE. Now it unfolds cleanly; now it fits; now it is beautiful.

…In other news: The Wizards just managed to lose their opener at home to the lowly New Jersey Nets. Good grief!

On the other hand: The Phillies just won the World Series!