JESUS INTERPRETS THE SCRIPTURES

By | December 29, 2013

The question has often been raised where the New Testament writers, in contrast to their non-Christian Jewish counterparts, get the idea of interpreting the Old Testament from the reality of Christ” (Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, p. 202). Jesus Himself said that Moses wrote about Him (Jn. 5:46), so that He is the leading character of the Scriptures. “Jesus himself taught [the disciples] to read the Old Testament this way. For three years the disciples heard Jesus preach and teach, heard him speak of himself as the Son of Man, that is, the person who receives a kingship ‘that shall never pass away’ (Dan 7:14), heard him say over and over that he fulfilled Old Testament promises, heard him apply to himself the role of the figure of the Servant of Yahweh who ‘was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities’ (Isa 53:5). After his resurrection, Luke reports, Jesus found it necessary to continue teaching his disciples that the Old Testament spoke of him. Jesus said, ‘Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory.’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the Scriptures’” (Ibid). Repeatedly Jesus related his ministry to the Old Testament. Again Jesus told the twelve, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise” (Lk. 18:31-33). And once again, “they did not grasp what was said” (vs. 34). The disciples should have understood what Jesus was saying, not only because He spoke plainly, but also because the prophets foretold the events of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection—“everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.”

The gospel of Luke shows that belief in the resurrection is due to the teaching of Scripture. On the road to Emmaus Jesus is talking with two disciples after His resurrection, but they don’t recognize Him yet. They talk about the recent events; about the women going to the tomb and not finding Jesus’ body; about seeing angels, who said He was alive. Jesus rebukes them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter his glory?” (Lk. 24:25-26). Notice that Jesus doesn’t rebuke them for not believing the testimony of the women or the angels, but because they didn’t “believe all that the prophets have spoken.” What disturbs Jesus is their lack of faith in the Old Testament. To help them believe, Jesus doesn’t make himself known to them…yet, rather “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them all in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (vs. 27). He wants them to believe in the resurrection, because they see it for themselves in the Scriptures. A little later “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him” (vs.31).

These two disciples returned to Jerusalem and “found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together” (vs. 33). As they were talking about their encounter with the risen Lord, “Jesus himself stood among them” (vs. 36). This appearance startled and frightened them, and they thought they saw a spirit (vs. 37). Jesus showed them His hands and His feet, but “they still disbelieved for joy” (vs. 41). Jesus wants these disciples to believe in His resurrection, and you would think that His personal, physical, bodily presence would suffice to convince them, but it doesn’t. The disciples don’t trust their own eyes. They think they must be seeing a spirit or a ghost.

I’m stressing the importance of believing in the resurrection because it’s the teaching of Scripture for three reasons. First, to show that the Old Testament is a detailed account of the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and reign of Christ. Second, to show that our belief or trust is to be in the Word of God, and not the experience of some person or the teaching of a church or institution. Third, to show that our confidence in witnessing to the resurrection needs to be in the Scriptures. The rich man in hell asked father Abraham if Lazarus could come back from the dead and witness to his brothers, so they wouldn’t join him. Abraham said, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Lk. 16:31).

If they will not believe because of the teaching of Scripture, they simply will not believe.