One of the concrete ways that Christians misread the Gospels is by reading them without reference to Israel’s story. When we open the pages of the New Testament, we are not encountering a beginning. The Gospels are part of another story that is already well on its way. They claim to bring the story of Israel to its completion—the story of the God of Israel and his relation to his people and his commitment to reclaim the nations through them.
N. T. Wright elaborates on this missing element in Christians readings of the Gospels:
The problem is that we have all read the gospels, if we haven’t been careful, simply as God’s answer to the plight of the human race in general. The implied backstory hasn’t been the story of Abraham, of Moses, of David, of the prophets; it’s been the story of Adam and Eve, of “Everyman,” sinning and dying and needing to be redeemed. Israel’s story sneaks in alongside, in this version, in order merely to offer some advance promises, some hints and signposts. But the story of Israel itself, for most modern readers of the Bible, is to be quietly left aside. It was part of the problem, not part of the solution. It seems, after all, to be so dark—such a failure, such a disappointment. . .
But when we turn to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John we discover that they at least think it’s important to re-tell the history of Israel and to show that the story of Jesus is the story in which that long history, warts and all, reaches its God-ordained climax (p. 67).
The gospel writers saw the events concerning Jesus, particularly his kingdom-inaugurating life, death, and resurrection, not just as isolated events to which remote prophets might have distantly pointed. They saw those events as bringing the long story of Israel to its proper goal, even though that long story had apparently become lost, stuck, and all but forgotten (p. 73).
But why is the story of Israel so important?
In Israel’s scriptures, the reason Israel’s story matters is that the creator of the world has chosen and called Israel to be the people through whom he will redeem the world. The call of Abraham is the answer to the sin of Adam. Israel’s story is thus the microcosm and beating heart of the world’s story, but also its ultimate saving energy. What God does for Israel is what God is doing in relation to the whole world. That is what it meant to be Israel, to be the people who, for better and worse, carried the destiny of the world on their shoulders. Grasp that, and you have a pathway into the heart of the New Testament (pp. 73-74).