Throughout the past few months, I focused on bringing you a word of encouragement related to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic that we all have been experiencing, and your positive response has been truly heartwarming. Beginning this month, however, we will return to our specific focus on biblical apologetics and the mandate given to us in 1 Peter 3:15 — “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” For the next few months, I would like to share some observations gleaned from a new sermon series I will be presenting at Cross Community Church: Surprised By Jesus: Encountering Christ In The Old Testament.
If you have ever wondered what the Old Testament is all about, as I certainly did when I was young in the faith, the next few articles will help make sense of it all. If I were to use a single word to describe what the Old Testament is teaching us, that word would be Jesus. When I was first exposed to this truth in seminary, it was as if I had been given a brand new Bible, as a dear friend and brother in Christ said to me after he experienced the same transformation in his thinking.
I will confess that I used to find the Old Testament to be tough sledding. When reading through The One Year Bible, I couldn’t wait for October 1st, which was when I would finally arrive at the New Testament, nine months and 39 books after “In the beginning God . . .” Today, every time I open the pages of the Old Testament, my enthusiasm and excitement grow in anticipation of encountering Jesus on every page.
On the Road
This concept not was not invented by the imagination of man, but in the eternal counsel of the Lord God of Truth. Do you remember what Jesus said on the Emmaus Road?
“ ‘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).
This discourse took place during the afternoon of the first Easter. Two downcast disciples were making the seven-mile journey away from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Their hopes of the coming Messiah had been crushed when Jesus was nailed to the cross. They knew that some women had gone to the tomb early that morning and found it empty, and they had also heard that the women had seen the risen Savior, but this they simply could not believe. Now, suddenly, while these two disciples were trudging toward Emmaus, Jesus appeared and provided a gentle rebuke for their lack of understanding of the Scriptures.
Moses and all the Prophets
It’s important to understand what “all the Scriptures concerning himself” Jesus was explaining. He was not referencing the Bible that you and I have today, consisting of both the Old and New Testaments. At the time of Jesus, there was no New Testament; it had not been written yet. The only revelation from God that was available was contained in the Hebrew Scriptures — what we call the Old Testament today — and it is these Scriptures that Jesus said speak clearly about Him.
In pointing the two disciples to “Moses and all the Prophets,” Jesus was essentially saying, “All of Scriptures is all about Me!” And so, beginning with Moses and working through the writings of the prophets, Jesus explained to these disciples that God’s unfolding plan of redemption found its fulfillment in Him. Everything in the Old Testament pointed to Jesus, and when you and I come to the biblical texts with this kind of understanding, it truly is like getting a new Bible that brings us face to face with Jesus, all the way from Genesis to Revelation.
In the Garden
During the next few months, you and I will look at Jesus under three headings: Promised, Patterned, and Present. For this month’s article, I would like to set it all up with the first Gospel proclamation, which was delivered by God to the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
Do you see the theme of suffering and glory for the promised Messiah? God told the serpent that he would allow him to strike the heel of Messiah (suffering), but that will be ultimately followed by Messiah crushing the serpent’s head (glory). We find this same two-part theme — suffering and glory — repeated throughout the Old Testament, always pointing us toward Jesus.
I will make you this promise as we spend time together over the next few months looking at Jesus throughout the Old Testament: You will find yourself feeling the same “heartburn” that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus experienced.
“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).
Here is what this “heartburn” caused these previously dispirited and downcast disciples to do: “They . . . returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen’” (Luke 24:33-34). Holy heartburn always results in sharing Jesus with others. The more we understand, as Sally Lloyd Jones said so well, that every story in Scripture whispers His name, the more we will want to share this truth with others, because we will have reached the same conclusion the disciples did: “It is true! The Lord has risen!”
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!
Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.