You may remember those terrible commercials that began running back in 1989 where the elderly woman pushes her medical alert pendant and says, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.” It may be an uncomfortable memory to recall because they were just awful – they were almost comedic, yet the situation is not funny at all. They were so bad that the words became a recognized punchline in many comedy acts. However, you would have a very different reaction if a member of your own family – your own loved one – was laying on the floor and unable to get up. You would want someone to come to the rescue. You would not want your loved one to be the butt of someone’s jokes. The Jewish people were family to the Apostle Paul and he wanted to see them saved. They had been pursuing righteousness by works of the law and then stumbled over the gospel of righteousness by faith in Jesus. Thus the Gentiles who received the gospel wondered if Israel stumbled over Jesus in order that they might fall and be unable to get up. Here’s how Paul poses and answers the question:
- Because they stumbled salvation went to the Gentiles so as to make them jealous.
- Paul highlights his missionary efforts among the Gentiles in order to somehow make his fellow Jews jealous and thus save some of them. Thus they did not stumble so that they would fall and not be able to get back up. Rather their sinful refusal to follow Jesus led the gospel to go to the Gentiles in order to somehow make them jealous and thus save some of them. He argues from the lesser to the greater that if their sinful refusal to follow Jesus means the gospel goes to the world, then how much more will their full inclusion mean. If their rejection of the gospel means that God is being reconciled to people from many nations, how much more will their acceptance of the gospel mean – it will mean the resurrection of the dead. In other words, when all Israel believes in Jesus then it will be the end and Jesus will return. Knowing that Paul’s purpose in this letter is to enlist the Christians in Rome to help him evangelize those that the Romans considered barbarians, you can see how Paul is encouraging such mission with the hope that some of his fellow Jews will become jealous and be saved and bring us closer to the arrival of the new heavens and earth.
- You may find that some of your Jewish and Gentile neighbors and family members are hardened and you want to see them saved, so you can share the gospel with people who are different from you in hopes that it will somehow make them jealous and they will want what those new Christians have. Yes you may find that many of those who are familiar with the faith of Abraham are nevertheless rejecting Jesus and because they are loved ones and good friends and you want to see them saved you will share the good news with people who are not familiar with the faith of Abraham. As more and more people in America today know less and less about the Scriptures it may become easier to find people who aren’t following Jesus and aren’t familiar with the gospel that God considers those who believe in Jesus righteous. They may be more receptive than those who have heard the old old story many times before. And thankfully when they and those from other nations begin following Jesus that may lead some of those who know the message but don’t have a relationship with Jesus see what they are missing. (So Paul wants to make it clear that the Jewish people didn’t stumble so that they would fall and not get up, but rather through their sin the gospel has come to the Gentiles to make the Jewish people jealous. For…)
- They stumbled so that they could receive God’s mercy just as you might say we are all fallen and can’t get up without Jesus saving us.
- Paul tells the Christians in Rome, most of whom were Gentiles, that just as they had been sinners and received God’s mercy so too now the Jewish people were being disobedient to God so that they too might receive God’s mercy. Mercy is for the the ungodly. Indeed, Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah in verse 26 where the context suggests God will rescue Israel from the ungodly among them, but then the Apostle is saying that Israel is ungodly – thus the verse now means that God will save ungodly Israel. This letter to the Romans makes it abundantly clear that all have sinned and are falling short of the glory of God. Thus God can show mercy to all those whom He wants to show mercy through you as you share the message of foregiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. So the Jewish people who rejected Jesus didn’t stumble so that they would fall but so that they might receive mercy and foregiveness.
- Our God loves to show mercy to the ungodly. He shows mercy to those who believe in Jesus. If you do not believe in Jesus then you can be cut off like a branch on an olive tree. The olive tree often represents Israel in the Scriptures. Paul explains that many of the Jewish people were cut off from the tree because of their unbelief and wild shoots (i.e., Gentiles) were grafted onto the tree. The warning is that if you do not believe then you too can be cut off of the tree, but the good news for those cut off is that God can graft them back in again. Indeed, Paul tells us that it is more natural to have the natural branches representing the Jewish people grafted back in again then it is to have wild olive branches grafted onto their tree. But all of this is to say that God shows mercy to the ungodly and can take those who have stumbled and bring them back into the fold. Praise God! Amen!