The story of the Bible begins with chaos. In the beginning God creates the sky and the earth, but the earth is covered with water and nothing else. It’s shapeless and terrifying. And then God decides to speak — with his word he speaks things into being. He speaks and the sun and moon shine; he speaks and time exists; he speaks and the mountains rise up; he speaks and vines, apple trees, and rainforests spring from the ground; he speaks and whales and eels swim, seagulls and sparrows soar, and lizards, ants, mice, dogs, and elephants wander around. God is now King of all creation. But he’s not done yet — he wants to share all this with people. And so he makes a man and a woman to be just like him, to think like him, speak like him, and be together with him for all time. The King now has his people to love and to take care of what he created — everything is good, everything is at peace.
[This part of the Bible story covers Genesis chapters 1 and 2. It’s one of the most famous parts of the Bible. In recent years it’s been used to try to argue for or against scientific ideas such as evolution or the age of the earth. There’s a lot to unpack there, more than we have space to talk about here, but at least we can say that Genesis chapters 1 and 2 focus on God’s role as King of creation, rather than how exactly he created everything. And in fact that role is one of the first and most important building blocks of the Bible story — very little in the Bible will make sense if we don’t accept this as truth.]
And now for the sad part. The man and the woman love the King who made them, and gave them everything to enjoy and eat — everything except for one tree. The King had told the man that if they eat the fruit of that tree, they will know good and evil, and they will die. And so the man and the woman start having doubts: Who is this King to stop us from knowing good and evil? So when the snake, the enemy, comes to the woman, he knows what to say to ruin her: Of course the King doesn’t want you to know good and evil — only the King is allowed to do that. He’s afraid of you. Trust me, you won’t die if you eat that fruit — in fact you’ll be King! And so the man and the woman, who were made to be just like the King and be close to him forever, trust the enemy instead. They want to know good and evil, they want to be King, and so they eat.
When they eat the fruit, their eyes are opened — they look at themselves, but they don’t see Kings. They see something weak, embarrassing, naked, disgusting. And so with their hands they work hard and make clothes out of leaves. They cover themselves, they hide themselves from each other, and then when they hear the King coming to see them, they hide from him too. When the King finds out what happened, he is heartbroken and angry. He tells the man and the woman: Because you have sinned, because you have failed to be like the King even though you are made to be like the King, your world is now under a curse. Man and woman will struggle against each other. Nothing that you do, no matter how hard you work with your hands, will ever save you. You will both die and return to the dust. Your children will struggle against the snake, the enemy — but one day, one of your children will crush him, even though the enemy will wound him badly.
The last thing the King does is to kill an animal — the man and woman see death and blood for the first time — and he makes clothes out of its skin to cover them both.
And then the King sends them far away, never to return.
[This part of the Bible story covers Genesis chapter 3. It’s a very important part of the Bible, and in fact sets the scene for the rest of the Bible; what sin is, how we try to deal with it, how God deals with it, and how he will ultimately restore everything to be good again — all of this is set up here.]
Many years pass. The man and the woman lived long and worked hard, but they died. And so did their children, and their children. Soon they all forget about the King’s promise that someone would crush the snake, the enemy. In fact, they all forget the King. Now they have little kings of their own, who rule in palaces made of stone and wood.
The story of the Bible now focuses on how God, the King, tries to make everything good again, at peace again, and to fulfil that promise of a snake-crusher. He makes a promise with an old man named Abraham, who has no children. The King tells him: If you leave your old life behind and follow me closely, I will make you into something big, I will bless the whole world through you and your children. Abraham trusts the King and follows him — even though it’s hard work and he makes many mistakes along the way — and the King gives him a son. The King now has his people to love and be close with.
Fast forward again many, many years — the King’s people have been brought to Egypt. But the Egyptians have treated them badly, making them slaves. After a while they forget the King, forget his promise to Abraham. The snake-crusher is nowhere to be seen, nothing is good, there is no peace for them. The only king they see is Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he does not love them.
And so the King acts on the promise to Abraham — he sends a man named Moses to save his people from Egypt. Moses leads them to a good land, and on the way the King gives them his Law, and he tells them: You are my people, I have saved you, and I want you to be like me. Here is my Law to show you how you should live as people who look like the King. It’s a Law with high standards, but the King gives them something else too: he teaches them how to cover their sins, whenever they break his Law. He teaches them how to kill an innocent animal, so that its blood can pay for their sin, so that the people stay innocent in the King’s eyes, even while someone else has paid the cost for their sin.
[This part of the Bible story covers Genesis chapter 4 onward, as well as the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua. It helps us see how God relates with his people: further making his promise clear, rescuing them from their troubles, and working out a way for himself to live with his sinful people. Hopefully you can also see the Law in the right perspective: following the Law is not meant to save anyone. Rather it points to how perfect God’s standards are, and how we desperately need help to live up to them.]
The Kingdom (take 1)
Many years pass. The King’s people have settled down in their good land. But they’ve forgotten the King. They want a little king for themselves, because they don’t want to look like the King, they want to look like all the other people around them, who have their own kings — when the King’s people look around them, they feel small, weak, naked.
And so the King gives them a king, just as they asked. The first one does a bad job, but the next king, David, is good. The King now makes a promise with David: I will make you into something very big. I will give my people peace, and I will make your throne go on forever. Someone from your family will rule as king of my people forever, and I will love him as my Son.
Many years pass again. King David started as a good king, but he sinned horribly in the end. Many kings come and go — some of them rule the King’s people well because they know who the real King is, but most of them rule badly, because they don’t know this. The King’s people say that they follow his Law but their hearts are not in it; they kill animals again and again to cover their sins, but they don’t really care about their sins. Their kingdom seems strong, it seems like they have peace, and so they forget the King, they forget what it means to look like him. And so the King acts — again and again, year after year, he sends prophets and messengers to tell his people to come back, to remember him. But they don’t listen.
And so the King acts again — he allows fearsome enemies to crush and kill his people, to end their kingdom, and take them away from their homes, away from the King. And in their new, strange homes, they cry out for help. They wonder who will crush their enemies. So the King acts again — he saves them, and brings them back to their old home. Now he speaks to them one last time: I will make things new, I will make you clean and innocent, I will give you new hearts, and you will be able to follow my Law. You will be my people, and I will be your God, your King. I will send someone special to do all this. Wait for him!
And after that, the King falls silent for four hundred years.
[This part of the Bible story covers… well, all of the rest of the Old Testament from the book of Judges onward. We as Christians often like to skip over the Old Testament, but it’s vital to understanding who Jesus is. All the things that Jesus later came to fulfil are set up more and more clearly throughout the Old Testament. And the more you read it, the more you realise that sin is not something that only God’s people struggled with long, long ago. It’s something we struggle with as Christians today as well. And it shows us how high the stakes really are, how hopeless we would be without Jesus.]
The Kingdom (take 2)
Four hundred years later, that special someone finally arrives: Jesus, the main character in the whole story of the Bible. He’s the one who fulfils all the King’s promises — he’s the one who will crush the snake, the enemy, he will bless the whole world, he comes from the family of David, he’s the Son of the King, he is the King, he is God, and he will make all people everywhere clean and innocent, and give them new hearts.
But Jesus doesn’t look like a mighty Son of the King. He’s the son of a carpenter, he likes to wander around with his friends helping people, healing them, teaching them, and he has no house. He makes friends with thieves, prostitutes, enemy soldiers, even terrorists. But he tells everyone who will listen: The Kingdom of God is coming soon — leave your old life behind, and follow the King!
But the religious people hate Jesus and his message. They think: we’re good enough, we don’t need to leave our old lives behind. We’ve worked so hard to be good and look impressive — who is this strange man to come and say we’re not good enough? Who is this strange man to say that he is the Son of the King? That he is actually the King?
And so they work together with the government, and have Jesus arrested and killed. But as he dies on the cross, Jesus finally fulfils the King’s old, old promise: he dies as the innocent Son of the King, he dies to cover the sins of all people forever, so that all can now come back to the King, no more hiding.
And then the King acts — he raises his Son Jesus from the dead. As he rises he finally crushes the snake, the enemy, who lied to the man and woman all those years ago, so that they wanted to hide from the King. Because now all people who trust that Jesus is the living Son of the King, who paid the cost of all sins on the cross, can have peace. No more hiding from the King, no more having to cover over sins again and again and again — instead new life, true life, life that goes on forever. All people can now be clean again, they can truly look like the King again. They can build that Kingdom that Jesus was talking about, little by little, as they wait for King Jesus to come back.
And that’s what the King’s people are still doing today.
[This part of the Bible story covers the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Hopefully now you see why Jesus is the focus of Christianity, the focus of the Bible. He’s the one that everything in the Bible so far has been building toward. The books of the New Testament that come after the four Gospels are mostly letters written by Paul, instructing Christians on how they should live, and wait for Jesus to come back — something just as relevant for Christians 2000 years ago, when Jesus was in the world, as it is for Christians today.]