Luke 24:25-27: 25 “He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
‘All the Scriptures’
The Scriptures in Jesus’ day were just the Old Testament books. The New Testament Scriptures were written after his time, of course, but they were soon recognised as Scripture, and much more obviously talk about Jesus.
Jesus knew that many human authors had been involved in writing Scripture. But the way he quoted Scripture shows that he fully agreed with what Paul wrote to Timothy: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The words human authors wrote were not dictated by God; but they were what God wanted them to write – God was the real author of all Scripture.
Jesus explained to the two all that the Scriptures said about himself. The Scriptures were written by many hands, yes; but together they tell one main story – the story of God’s plan to save the world through Jesus. The Old Testament points forward to Jesus – in prophecies that were fulfilled in detail by Jesus’ life and death and resurrection, and also in the big picture, which we’ll think about in a moment. The New Testament proclaims how Jesus fulfils the promise of the Old Testament. We can’t understand the Old Testament properly until we see how it is fulfilled by Jesus’ coming; and we can’t understand the New Testament properly without knowing the beginning of the story.
There are common themes that run throughout the whole Bible:
1) the Kingdom. Chief focus of Jesus’ teaching and the binding theme of the Bible. What is the kingdom? Not just a country in the Middle East. A good definition is that the Kingdom of God is God’s people living in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing. We will be using this definition of the Kingdom throughout the sermon series that begins next Sunday.
2) the Covenant. Several covenants in the Bible, when God enters into a covenant with his people. The one which is at the forefront of most of the OT is the covenant under Moses when the 10 commandments and other laws were given. Later the prophets foretold that a new covenant would come, in which God’s laws were written on his people’s hearts, and that promise was fulfilled in the New Testament. But underlying these covenants was the most basic one of all, which is stated several times throughout the Bible, when God says: I will be your God, and you will be my people. Notice how God chooses his people, despite their flaws; and notice how people need to accept him as their God, not just as their friend and helper.
3) Representatives of God. Three are three particular kinds of representatives of God in the Old Testament:
the prophet represented God as he or she brought God’s revelation to his people – Moses was the prime example;
the king represented God’s authority over his people, especially David;
the priest represented God’s presence with his people, especially through the sacrificial system.
In the New Testament we see Jesus fulfilling these roles: he is the ultimate prophet, the true revelation of God; he is the son of David and the true king, not only of Israel but of the whole world; and he is the true priest who represents God to us and us to God, and brings us close to God.
4) Death and New Life. Throughout Scripture we see that sin separates us from God and from life, and that there is no hope for new life except after death. Turning over a new leaf just doesn’t work.
- Noah’s rescue from the flood did not rescue the world from sin.
- Moses’ laws could not stop people sinning – the only hope for forgiveness was through sacrifice.
- No king or prophet could prevent people turning away from God, and the nation of Israel had to be destroyed before there was any hope of new life for God’s people.
New life cannot happen without some kind of dying. Ultimately new creation cannot happen until the old creation has run its course and is destroyed. That doesn’t mean the present creation is a mistake: this fallen world is the stuff out of which the new world is made – I believe God doesn’t want just to start again from scratch and risk it all going wrong again. This is the world where we have free choice and make our mistakes and learn from them and choose freely to love God and go his way rather than our own. it is a vital part of God’s plan. But the new creation is coming, the fulfilment of the old, just as the resurrection body will be the fulfilment of the body we now have. But resurrection only comes after death, and this is foreshadowed or revealed or echoed in numerous ways throughout Scripture.
Jesus said, ‘Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ The word ‘Messiah’ is a Hebrew word. The Greek equivalent is ‘Christos’. Jesus Christ is God’s Messiah. But what is the messiah?
A King. We have seen that the kingdom of God is God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing. A kingdom needs a king. At first sight it would seem obvious that God should be the king of his kingdom. But the Old Testament shows that God’s people cannot bear to live in the immediate presence of God – nor can a holy God bear to have sinful people in his presence. There needs to be a human king, above all a son of David, appointed by God to be king over his kingdom, to reign with perfect justice and with God’s full authority and power. That’s what the Messiah is.
A Saviour. The Old Testament shows us that God’s people are deeply flawed, and unfit for his kingdom unless somehow their sin is dealt with – they need to be saved from the justice of God and be made fit to be God’s people. So if the Messiah is to have any people to rule over in God’s kingdom, those people need to be saved from the consequences and power of sin. But salvation is costly. We see that in the Old Testament. Deliverance from Egypt, forgiveness of sins – all involve sacrifice. New life comes after death. The Messiah needs to be a saviour who doesn’t just risk his life, but gives his life for his people. Isaiah 53 shows that very clearly.
But there is more to salvation than rescue. Salvation includes being made fit for the kingdom of God. The Saviour needs to be an enabler as well as a deliverer, teaching us how to live with God, and giving us new power and life so that we can be the people God created us to be. That’s the Messiah, both King and Saviour. And that Messiah is Jesus Christ.
So do we see Christ in all the Scriptures?
‘Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.’
Obviously Jesus could not have explained everything in the course of the two or three hour walk. Perhaps he talked about specific prophecies about death and resurrection, such as Isaiah 53, Psalm 16. The apostles certainly used these prophecies in their preaching and writing. Perhaps he also talked about the big picture.
Earlier I said that the Scriptures tell one main story: the story of God’s plan to save the world through Jesus. You could say that Jesus the Messiah is the big story of the Bible. I see it works like this.
In Genesis 1-11 I see the context for the Messiah, the Christ. It tells of Creation; then the rejection of God’s authority by Adam and Eve and the effect of sin in the world despite God’s love for creation; the story leads through the tower of Babel to the story of the flood, ending with the ancestry of Abraham. It all paints a picture of a world that needs a messiah.
In Genesis 12 to end of Malachi (the rest of the OT), I see the preparation for Christ. God prepares a kingdom. First, he chooses a people, the descendants of Abraham; then he saves them from slavery and gives them a promised land; on the way he gives them through Moses a pattern of life – how to live with God in worship, national and personal life. But there is a problem. The history of Israel, the prophets and other writers all bring to light the fact that the world is fatally flawed: nothing is perfect. There are lots of good people, lots of highlights; but it never lasts. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, even the best of them. God’s will is not done; the kingdom of God is not yet here. What is needed above all is a messiah, to come and save God’s people from their enemies, from God’s judgement, and from sin itself, and then rule over the kingdom of God in all its fulness for ever. The Old Testament shows an increasing awareness of this need; and points forward to a time when God will act and send his Messiah who will bring in that perfect kingdom. And that’s where the Old Testament ends.
The Gospels proclaim the coming of Christ: they tell of the life and work of Jesus and show how he fulfils the ancient promises by his suffering, death, resurrection and ascension. He is the Saviour of the world, not just of Israel; whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life. He is the King of God’s kingdom. But the Gospels are not the whole story.
Acts and the Letters tell of the programme of Christ, which is to grow the kingdom of God by growing the church. The Spirit of God comes and lives in Christ’s people, giving them new life and power, teaching them to live lives that please God in these difficult times, and working through them until the whole world has heard the good news.
Finally, Revelation reveals the triumph of Christ: this age draws to its conclusion, the creation itself experiences death and resurrection, and finally God’s people live in God’s true promised land, the new creation, living in perfect harmony with God their king, with one another, and with nature itself, and enjoying great blessing. Your kingdom come.
So what? If all the Scriptures speak of Christ, what difference should it make to us in church here today?
- Take note of Deuteronomy 29:29 – ‘The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may follow all the words of this law.’KJV ‘that we may do all the words of this law.’ What is revealed is not given us to satisfy our curiosity, but so that we may live godly lives. Do what God says. But how, if we don’t know what God says? Read the Bible – all of it. You won’t understand it all, first time round, but the more you read it the more you’ll receive.
- As we read, let’s take note of 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” As we look at Jesus, we are changed. So as you read, look at Jesus. See your need of him, see how he meets your need, get to know and love and follow him more and more as you serve him in his great mission to save the world.
- There’s one more thing. We see often in the Bible that new life follows a dying. There have been many prophecies about a new revival breaking out in this country. I suspect that will not happen until after a time of great difficulty, when secular hopes of prosperity and significance for the nation have been dashed. During that hard time, if it comes, we need to remain faithful, persevere in our love and obedience to the Lord, keep looking up – “death” will be followed by “resurrection” – and point people to the living hope we have. If Brexit disappoints the hopes of those who want it, that may be part of God’s preparation for revival. Likewise in our church life: we believe God is going to do great things and grow the church in every way. However, that may well not happen until there is a ‘breaking’ and we are brought low into utter dependence upon God, and some aspects of church life that we hold most dear are stripped away. Nevertheless, we still may sing, ‘Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me… Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me.’