“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39).
Christ’s Favorite Book
Did you know that Jesus had a favorite book? Scripture makes it clear that our Lord did indeed have a favorite book — the Old Testament — the “Hebrew Bible” or the “Tanakh” — as evidenced by the fact that He quoted from it and alluded to it numerous times throughout His earthly ministry. The books Jesus quotes from most are Exodus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, and Isaiah.
I must confess that Jesus’ favorite book was my least favorite book early in my Christian life: it is. When my wife, Kim, and I first came to faith in Christ, the church we were attending gave out the Daily Walk One Year Bible to anyone who would commit to reading through it each day for the upcoming year. Kim and I accepted the challenge and began our year-long commitment on January 1. We read through Genesis. We read through Exodus. As we got into Leviticus, our eyes began to glaze over. I am not sure how we got through Numbers, but I can tell you that we began to long for the day we would finally get to the New Testament, which didn’t happen until October 1st.
Beyond the prophecies about Jesus as the promised Messiah, all we saw in the Old Testament was what seemed like a series of disconnected stories and moralistic messages telling us how to live a life that pleases God and what happened to those who did not. Today, by God’s grace, we don’t see it that way anymore. Now Jesus’ favorite book is also our favorite book, and here’s why: The Old Testament is all about Jesus, a fact that Jesus made perfectly over and over again. He told the Jewish religious leaders:
“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40).
Most Christians understand that “the Scriptures” Jesus spoke of are the Old Testament; the New Testament hadn’t been written at that time. And if that statement from Jesus was not enough, a few verses later He added this thunderclap:
“Do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me” (John 5:45-46).
Kim and I knew that Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible (The Torah), but we didn’t realize just how profound this statement was. Then one day we encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus, just like the two downcast disciples who met Him three days after the crucifixion:
“[Jesus] said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).
These two disciples had expected Jesus to redeem Israel from Roman rule, but their hopes were crushed after Jesus was arrested and executed, especially in light of the fact that it was “the third day since all this took place” (Luke 24:21). They may have remembered that Jesus had spoken of a third-day resurrection, but this was the third day, and they had not seen Jesus alive and well. They had heard about the empty tomb from some of the women who followed Jesus, but an empty tomb without a resurrected body offered little hope. At the end of their walk, they stopped in a village to share a meal together. There Jesus opened their eyes to recognize Him, and what they said next has been the ongoing experience for Kim and me every time we read in the Old Testament:
“They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:32).
Today, Kim and I experience this “holy heartburn” as we read the Old Testament, seeing Jesus not just in prophecy, but in promise (beginning with God’s first Gospel proclamation in Genesis 3:15), in pattern, in people, in places . . . in short, on every page of Scripture. Jesus’ favorite book is now our favorite book, and it is my prayer that it will be yours also.
Growing in understanding
One final point: As truly God, Jesus had absolutely nothing to learn about anything. He was God in the flesh and knew everything perfectly. But as truly man, Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52). Jesus had to learn, just as we all learn. As a young Jewish boy, He would have been immersed in the study of the Jewish Scriptures (that is, the Old Testament), both at home and in the synagogue each Sabbath. At age twelve, Jesus went into the temple courts in Jerusalem and sat among the religious leaders, “listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46). As He listened and learned and discussed His favorite book, He grew in His understanding of who He was and what He was here to do, a fact that is evident in His words to His parents: “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).
Don’t miss this thought! As Jesus grew in His understanding of the Scriptures, He grew in His understanding of His coming suffering and subsequent glory. I cannot imagine what Jesus must have thought when He read Isaiah 53:5 — “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities.” Yet even after reading about His horrific death, He did not shrink back. Why? Because of you. He loves you so much that He went willingly to a cross to die in your place so that you can be with Him forever. He promised that in His favorite book, and Jesus always keeps His promises!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!
Dr. Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach (www.thecrosscc.org). He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com. For more articles by Dr. Tommy Boland, visit goodnewsfl.org/tommy-boland.