This week we’re starting a new five-week series titled Better: Jesus is…. During this series we’ll be looking to see some of the ways that Christ shows up in the Old Testament. Jesus is the climax of the story of Scripture. He is the better Adam, the better Jacob, the better Jonah, and the better Hosea.
This message is based on a reading from Luke 24:13-35.
The story of Christianity is the story of Jesus, and the whole bible talks about Jesus. In the next few weeks we’ll see that Jesus resisted temptation, unlike Adam, and He can give us the strength to do the same. Hosea shows us Jesus love for the sinful, Isaac prefigures the sacrifice Jesus would later make for us on the cross, and that (unlike Jonah) Jesus lovingly seeks to draw enemies to Him.
The Old Testament characters were great men of faith, strong in their resolve, devout men who we would do well to follow. But Jesus is just better. And that will be our topic over the next several weeks. We’ll see that, really, Jesus is the one we should be following. And I hope that we’ll see that Scripture is really all about Jesus. It not only builds to Jesus, and points to Jesus, but it’s all about Jesus. We can see His presence throughout the Bible, even in the Old Testament.
Our reading in Luke this morning is a favorite reading that takes place on the day of Jesus’ resurrection. To set the context for you, Jesus had been crucified and His followers had begun dispersing. The disciples stayed in Jerusalem as Jesus had told them, but the rest, the other followers, those that made up the crowds, had maybe hung around a few days, feeling dejected and alone, let down, grieving the loss of a friend, and then started to leave and go back home.
The reading started out with, ““That same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.” How long they had been following Jesus we don’t know, but we do know they felt the same gloominess and grief as so many others.
They were walking along and talking about all that happened, they were probably witnesses to the Palm Sunday parade into Jerusalem. They had probably been following Jesus during that last week, hearing some of his final teaching. They were probably witnesses to the crucifixion. They watched on in horror as Jesus suffered on the cross. And then it was over.
They believed Jesus was the Messiah, and they would have followed Him no matter where He went from there. But now it was over. Jesus was dead. And they must have been mistaken. That’s what they were talking about on their way home. They were talking about the things Jesus had done, and why they believed, and how could they have been so wrong.
Then Jesus comes up alongside. They didn’t see where He came from, they were too engrossed in their conversation to notice, it seemed He had just appeared. Perhaps even more amazing, though they had been part of the crowd in so many instances, witnessing so much of what Jesus did, they didn’t recognize Him. Still, they welcomed the company. I suspect the further they walked, and the more they talked, the deeper their feelings of grief became. But when Jesus questioned what they were talking about, they were amazed that He apparently didn’t know what had happened. He knew all right, of course He knew. He just wanted to know what they knew – or thought they knew.
After they explain everything, he begins to fill in the rest. Verses 25-26 must have caught them off guard. “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?” They assumed He didn’t know anything about what had happened. Yet He tells them they didn’t know, they didn’t understand it. And then, in verse 27, “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in the Scriptures concerning himself.”
That’s the key verse for our message today, and really the key verse if we’re going to understand our series. You see, the Scriptures of Jesus’ day was Old Testament in our Bibles. And in the pages of the Old Testament, we can see who Jesus is.
Jesus showed them some of the prophecies, some of the stories they knew so well, but maybe hadn’t properly understood before. He shared with them God’s promise of a coming Messiah, and more importantly, the predictions of what would happen to that Messiah – all of them coming to pass in Jesus. He showed them without a doubt the Jesus of the Old Testament. And they were able to understand the Jesus of the New Testament.
That’s why a knowledge of the Old Testament is so important. The Old Testament sets the context for Jesus’ ministry. If we don’t understand the Old, we’ll miss the symbolism and the importance of the New.
That’s why I love the Seder Meal so much. For thousands of years the Seder has pointing to Christ. The piece of bread that Jesus broke after the meal, saying this is my body broken for you, is the Afkomin, representing the one to come, the coming Messiah. There are four cups in the Seder, the one that Jesus passes to the disciple, saying this is my blood, poured out for you, is the cup of redemption, showing the disciples that God’s redemption comes through the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross. You can take communion without knowing the Seder, but it adds so much color, and it shows that the Seder has been pointing to Christ for thousands of years. There is so much of the Old Testament that has pointing to Christ for thousands of years before He came.
Bryan Chappell, who is senior pastor at Grace Presbyterian in Peoria, IL, founder of Unlimited Grace, which is a radio ministry, and president emeritus of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, has another way of looking at how the Old Testament points to the need of Christ by repeatedly leading us to dead ends. Nothing the Israelites did removed their stain of sin and brought them to God. Everything they tried was a dead end.
He went to suggest that “we should read the Old Testament as a Hebrew book that works its way through the law, which the people could not obey; through the time of the judges, when the people did what was right in their own eyes, through to the kings, who did not rule with righteousness; and finally to the prophets, to whom the people did not listen.” He then concludes that in the New Testament, we have a sense of “not this… not this… not this,” and then, in the coming of Christ, “but this.” He says that only in the New Testament do we find resolutions to the unresolved tensions of the Old Testament. So we can find answers in the New Testament, but if we don’t know the questions of the Old Testament, those answers won’t mean as much.
Not a bad way to look at it. I certainly don’t think it’s exhaustive. But it’s one way. I would suggest that the Old Testament not only points to Christ, but it’s all about Christ. Paul writes in Galatians 3:24 that “the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified with faith.” It’s great to know that in the New Testament we are free from the law, but it means so much more when we understand the thousands of years of struggle while the Israelites were trying to live according to the law. Without remembering their struggle, the freedom just doesn’t mean that much.
In the essay, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, Sinclair Ferguson writes about a few ways we can see Christ in the Old Testament. We see the promise and the fulfillment, we see a type, and an antitype, we see the covenant and Christ, the new covenant. The Old Testament gives us the context that we need to understand the New Testament. It’s only in the Old Testament that we can see the need for Christ, and the promise that a Christ is coming. And we see that in the New Testament. Without the Old, the New is a nice story that helps us feel all fuzzy inside. But understanding Christ in the Old adds color and meaning, and we see that it’s not just a nice fuzzy story, it’s the story of God working through His people since creation. It’s in the Old that the New finds depth and meaning and life.
As our series progresses, we’ll see several stories that point to Jesus. We’ll see that Jesus is a truer and better version of Adam, of Jacob, of Hosea, and of Jonah. But we could go on and on. Jesus is a truer and better version of all of our Old Testament characters. This clip from Tim Keller walks us through this… (https://vimeo.com/23642755)
The main point of Christianity is not the gifts, the miracles, the end times prophecies, or anything else that people can get distracted by in Scripture. The main point of Christianity is Jesus. And we’ll find Him in all of Scripture.