As John the Baptist looked out amidst the crowd while he was baptizing at the Jordan River, he saw Jesus coming toward him. He stopped, pointed and exclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) What an amazing response. We are familiar with those words, but in the moment they would have seemed odd. He didn’t call him the king or savior, but an animal that was used for sacrifice. That is, when John looked at Jesus he saw in him the fulfillment of the Old Testament imagery of the sacrificial lambs. By drawing on that one image, John said volumes about what he believed Jesus had come to do and about how he viewed the Old Testament as a whole. For John, the Old Testament, with all of its stories and imagery, was pointing forward to this moment and to this man. He rightly understood that Jesus was the climax of the entire story and the realization of all of Israel’s hopes.
How do you read the Old Testament? Is it a collection of obscure stories? Is it a series of moral lessons? Or do you see it as the rich and multifaceted preparation for the coming of Christ? Do you see it’s stories, characters, conflicts, and plot lines as object lessons intended to help us understand with clarity who Christ was and what He was accomplishing in His earthly ministry? If we are to have a deep and robust understanding of the person and work of Jesus, then we must see him through the lens of the Old Testament. This point was driven home when in Luke 24 Jesus walked alongside two men who had set their hopes in him only to have them dashed by his crucifixion. As they walked, not recognizing him, we are told that Jesus expounded on the Scriptures, showing them from Moses and all the Prophets the things concerning himself. That is, Jesus walked these men through the entire Old Testament and demonstrated how it was all about him. Though they were students of God’s Word, they did not anticipate the death of their savior, revealing that they had not really understood its central message. Jesus called them foolish and slow of heart to believe. If we are to be faithful readers of the scriptures then it is imperative that we see Christ throughout the entire scope of Scripture.
This Winter we will be holding a class at Hudson Valley URC in New Hampton, NY on Thursdays beginning on January 25th at 7:00 pm. In this class, we will study the progressive and unfolding revelation of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. We will let the categories of the Old Testament help us better understand the ministry of Christ and let the finished work of Christ help us understand the full significance of the Old Testament stories. I look forward to seeing you there.