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

3 thoughts on “Reading the Old Testament with Jesus

  1. Pingback: Reading the Old Testament in Christ « Fr. Ted’s Blog

  2. Pingback: Christ in our Midst and With Us Always « Fr. Ted’s Blog

  3. Pingback: Christ as Hermeneutic: Moses Wrote of Me | Fr. Ted's Blog

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