Reading the Old Testament with Jesus

One of the Resurrectional Gospel Lessons used in Orthodox worship is Luke 24:13-35.   In this reading, our Lord Jesus now risen from the dead is speaking with two of His disciples as these disciples are leaving Jerusalem following the crucifixion of Christ.  The disciples had hoped Jesus was the Messiah, but his execution had dashed their hopes.  They leave Jerusalem despondently, though puzzled by what to make of the rumors they had heard about His being risen from the dead.  Jesus joins them in their walk, though they do not recognize their Risen Lord. After listening to their disappointment in what had happened, Jesus spoke to them, and here I’ll mention only two things He says to these despairing disciples:

 Luke 24:27-47 (NRSV)
 [27] Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
 [44] Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” [45] Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, [46] and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, [47] and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Basically what the Risen Lord reveals to these two disciples of His is that the Old Testament indeed is a treasury of God’s riches. But it remains locked in its vault until the key is given to open the vault. That key is Christ Himself.  The key to understand all the Old Testament, including the Ten Commandments and all 613 laws of the Torah, including the history, the psalms and the prophecies is Jesus the Messiah.  That of course is going to be one of the main points of disagreement between Christians and Jews to this day.   Christians accept the notion that Jesus is more important than either Torah or Temple, and that in fact He replaces both of them in by fulfilling their original purposes, thus enacting a New Covenant/Testament between God and His People.
As John records Jesus saying to His fellow Jews:   “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf” (John 5:39).   Just like with His two traveling disciples, Jesus teaches that the Scriptures – the entire Old Testament – serve the purpose of helping to reveal or point out the Messiah.  Jesus fulfills all the promises, prophecies and apocalyptical sayings found in the Jewish Scriptures.
Some want to read the Old Testament as if it has no relationship to Christ and to proclaim the Law of God without Christ. But the basic understanding of Christians from the beginning was you cannot understand the Old Covenant without Christ.   Christians claim the Old Testament is understandable and interpretable only in Christ, for the Old Testament speaks about Him, not just literally, but in symbols, shadows, prophesy, poetry, history, foreshadowing, spiritually, anagogically, allegorically, prototypically and in every way that the Scriptures can be properly understood.
But to read or proclaim the Old Testament without Christ is to deny Christ and His role in salvation.   We read the Scriptures with Christ, in Christ, through Christ, and by Christ.   Of course Old Testament scripture can be read literally, but in doing so we may not see Christ in them. For if one can read the Old Testament only and  exactly the same (literally or legally) with or without Christ, then perhaps we have not really understood Christ or the Old Testament, and perhaps we have embraced neither.
Christ has come and opened our hearts and minds to the scriptures – showing us how they witnessed to Him, not just literally, for some of what Christ claimed the Old Testament says about him cannot be found in a purely literal reading of  the Old Testament.  But when one reads the Old Testament believing in the promises of the Messiah and the Kingdom, recognizing Jesus as the promised Messiah and the fulfillment of the prophecies and the promises, accepting Christ’s interpretation of the Scriptures because He is God’s Messiah and Son and the Rabbi par excellence, one realizes the entire Old Testament Scriptures were pointing to the One who would fulfill them and in so doing replace them with something entirely new.  He opened us to the new revelation, what God had hidden previously but had prophetically hinted at and promised.

For another commentary on Luke 24:13-35 see my Christ in our Midst and with us Always

Paradise Revisted, Again

 In Paradise, God commands all that is luscious and sweet,

To be food, providential, for its residents to eat.

Eating or not, what would it mean,

where no one yet dies, when there is ripe but no ripening?

Natural causes were of no consequence

In that original place of human genesis.

Death, unnatural in the Paradise of life,

Still found the door into Eden,

Who is the way to man’s heart.

Another virgin shall have to be

The door which opens Paradise again.

The Garden mysteriously hospitable to all

Inexplicably accommodates even its Host’s final enemy.

Paradise is harrowed of its occupants when

The possibility of Death became reality.

God’s Word returns that favor on one Sabbath day’s rest

In another garden, not of delight, nor of life,

But where the dead are planted to compost,

Or to be the grain of wheat which bears fruit.

That door, through which Death gained entry into life,

like the proverbial barn’s,

Will be closed only in time to keep

Adam and Eve out.  Pity.

And yet, their expulsion shows

The heart of man as the mobile home for Sin and Death,

Which themselves cannot abide in the Garden of Delight forever.

Paradise, once freed of Adam and Eve,

Though purified of Sin whose home is washed away

Is not quite life-giving again, nor even bearing life –

Has it become an empty tomb?

God, like the weeping myrrhbearing women, seeks the fallen man there.

With no human heart in Eden,

Death too is expelled into this world

Where it will not reside, but further exiles itself to Sheol,

Mortality’s self proclaimed kingdom

Which it imagined beyond God’s saving reach.

Enlightened by Christ, we know this usurper cannot hold its prey.

O deceitful Death, which replaced God’s image and likeness

In the holy paradise of the Creator,

Worming your way into the heart of man

Eating a path, which leaves man as food for the worms,

Your insatiable appetite for human flesh

Is the gluttony which drives you too from the endless abundance

Which God had provided in Paradise.

The abounding Vegan banquet was not satisfying enough for you

Wretched humanivorous parasite who demands carrion, not fruit.

You fashion humanity into your own garden

Plucking corpse and harvesting carrion

Like fruit and meat for your own morbid feeding delight.

You obediently avoided the Tree of Knowledge,

Consuming those poisoned by eating its tantalizing enticement.

Was not God’s paradisiacal fruit offered through consumption to you as well?

Never sated you demanded consumer and the consumed.

It was you who wanted that which God forbade.

Was it not your greed and serpential counsel which bid to Eve,

To grasp what was forbidden to you – the likeness of God?

Ripening her into the first fruit of your picking,

Did you taunt Creator of all after swinging your scythe and reaping her?

Lifting up your sacrilegious sacrifice,

Offering her whom you had stolen, so that the Lord’s heart would bleed?

It would.  He will.

Eve, surrounded by the abundance she never touched,

Blinded by the promise that her eyes would be opened,

Surrendered her humanity to you,

Foolishly imagining divinity would be hers,

She grasped at a figment,

Leaving herself be covered by fig.

Luxuruient fruit to die for, indeed.

Was the Divine Garden not ultimately superfluous?

Adam and Eve never tasted the gifted fruits of the Master’s hospitality,

Perhaps not even needing it in that place without sorrow or sighing.

Commanded to indulge to their heart’s content,

No regard need to be paid to a food pyramid,

No threat of overindulging, gorging, being overweight.

Nothing was required but a simple fast from one fruit

In the Garden of Delight, there is no decadent.            

For it was a feast to the eyes and a delight

Which required no eating in order to partake.

Originally could they have thrived on God’s Word alone?

In that place where neither gluttony nor starvation could kill,

A Genetic pre-disposition to obesity, no threat.

They were naturally free to live in abundance or without-

Something St. Paul said he had to learn in this world.

They chose not to live by that Word which proceeds from God’s mouth,

“Let there be….”   They wouldn’t.

They disobeyed, ignoring mouth watering fruit and sweet Word which give life.

Only when they ingested the knowledge they craved

Were their eyes opened to the abundance they had lost,

And to the life which now was beyond their grasp.

The divinely husbanded varied fruit was not necessary for sustaining being

Where the genesis of created life occurred and where death did not reign,

But neither did that Tree of Knowledge protect the knowing from death,

Nor could it grant eternity to those who rejected God’s Word

In their quest to be like God, whose likeness they bore.

What a bitter fruit to eat.