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Audio Transcript

Good evening, everyone. This is a short bonus episode of Ask Pastor John. We’re back tonight because just a moment ago we published a new article from John Piper. It’s a timely word and a weighty article. And I have Pastor John on the line to tell us more about it. It’s titled “Why Was Jesus Born a Jew? The Devastating Mercy of His Ethnicity.” So, Pastor John, two questions for you: (1) Why did you write the article to begin with? And (2) What was your aim in writing it?

Let’s take these in reverse order. The aim of the piece is to show that Jesus was born a Jew to shut the mouth of all ethnic and racial boasting, including Jewish. Or to put it more positively: the aim of the piece is to show that Jesus was born a Jew to bring every race and ethnicity to a humbled, happy dependence on mercy, mercy, mercy.

Every Racial Boast Broken

Why Jesus was born a Jew is part of the wider question, isn’t it? The wider question: If God was aiming at the worship of millions of people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, why in the world did he focus his saving work almost entirely on the Jewish people for two thousand years, from Abraham to Jesus the Christ? That’s the key question. If we try to follow the biblical path to the answer to that question, which is what this article tries to do, it is extremely convoluted.

But here’s Paul’s summary in Romans 11:30–32, and you’ll hear how convoluted it is, which is what I try to untangle in this article:

Just as you [Gentiles] were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their [Jews’] disobedience, so they [Jews] too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you [Gentiles], they [Jews] also may now receive mercy.

And then comes this climactic, all-important sentence:

For God has consigned all [Jews and Gentiles] to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. 

That’s convoluted. Every mouth is stopped. The boast of every ethnic group is silenced. Each is made to swallow its pride. If you step back and look at the bigger argument, non-Jewish ethnic groups must swallow their ethnic pride because, in order to be saved, we Gentiles must be grafted into the Abrahamic covenant (Romans 11:17). Do you hear that, neo-Nazis? Do you hear that, Ku Klux Klan? Do you hear that, every other brand of anti-Semitic evil? To be saved, one must become a true Jew and be grafted into the Abrahamic promises and inheritance and covenant. And Jews too must humble themselves and renounce all dependence on the merit of Jewishness and join the Gentiles in absolute dependence on mercy, mercy, mercy alone.

Christmas Creates a New People

So now you ask, Why did you write this? I have three answers. 

1. Because Christmas, the incarnation, Jesus born a Jew, is the end of ethnocentrism. 

2. Because ethnic harmony is rooted not just in the universal imago Dei (image of God), but also in the universal disobedience of every ethnicity. And in our humble, heartbroken dependence on mercy, mercy, mercy from God. 

3. Because sometimes in the smoke of ethnic tension we need to pause and lift our eyes again and consider some vast purposes of God from creation to consummation that just might, just might put everything on a new footing.

Jesus was born a Jew so that every race would exult in mercy, not degrees of melanin, so that every ethnicity would exult in mercy more than ethnic ways, so that every tribe would exult in mercy more than tribal attributes. Jesus was born a Jew to create one, new, joyful, mercy-loving race. 

So this Christmas, may God unleash a tidal wave of mercy-loving peace for Jesus’s sake.

Yes, amen. A very timely piece as we approach Christmas: the birth of our Savior and the end of ethnocentrism. Amen! Again, the article is titled “Why Was Jesus Born a Jew? The Devastating Mercy of His Ethnicity.” It went live online just a moment ago. Thanks for listening to this special episode, and we’ll see you again very shortly.