Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Christ at the Center
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” John 5:39-40
I think sometimes people pass by these words of Jesus too quickly. Jesus is teaching the Pharisees, and us, about his authority, his identity, and the fact that he is the Messiah promised by the Old Testament scriptures. All well and good.
But he's not just saying, here, that the Old Testament mentions him. It's not like the Old Testament is about a bunch of stuff, and one of the things it happens to talk about is the Messiah. Sure there are those direct prophecies of the Messiah – what he would do, what he would be like. But it doesn't stop there!
What Jesus is really saying here is that ALL of the scriptures testify to him. That is, the entire Old Testament points to, revolves around, and is rooted in Him. He's not an appendix or sidebar. Jesus Christ is the beating heart of the Old Testament.
Or to put it another way (as John's Gospel does), Jesus is the living Word of God. The Word made flesh to dwell among us. And while you may be looking at the markings on the page, and reading the sounds out loud.... you will never know the Word of God unless you know Jesus. You will never rightly understand the Old Testament apart from him. Every book and story and point made in the Old Testament, sooner or later, drives us to Jesus.
The Pharisees and the other Jewish leaders couldn't see the forest through the trees. They searched and searched the scriptures, looking for life. Looking for life in the law is futile, of course. For as Paul tells us, the Law kills, but the Spirit gives life. And the Spirit is the one who points us and leads us to Christ. He enlightens us so that we can better understand the Word – and that Word is Christ!
This understanding of Christ at the center of the Old Testament – informs our interpretation of it. It is one of the chief principles to consider when taking up a text. One of the first questions we can ask is, “all right, what does this have to do with Christ?” And once you start to see the Old Testament this way, you will start to see Jesus everywhere.
You'll see him in the Garden of Eden – the promised seed of the woman. You'll seem him in the Exodus, the passover lamb. You'll see him in Leviticus, the great High Priest. In Melchizedek, Moses and David and Solomon – all who foreshadowed the Christ. You'll see him in the Angel of the Lord. You'll see him in the lives of the prophets, and in the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. He's the true temple. He's the true Israel. He's the Son of Man. He's the bridegroom in the Song of Solomon. He's the forgiving husband portrayed by Hosea. He's even in the fiery furnace with the three men in Daniel.
How many Christians today suffer with an impoverished view of the Old Testament, which doesn't show them Christ at every corner? How sad to be looking for life, and not find it, right in front of your face.
Now, this Christ-centered view of Scripture also applies to the New Testament as well. And that's pretty obvious. Still, even in the New Testament, many can read Christ right away from the pages of Scripture – by confusing Law and Gospel, by turning Jesus into a different kind of Savior. Instead of the one who atones for our sins on the cross – some would have “Example Jesus”, or “Inspiring Jesus” or “Cheap Grace Jesus”, “Repentance-free Jesus”, or a host of other impersonators.
But the Jesus of Scripture is the Jesus of all of Scripture, not just the parts we like. He's humble and meek, but he can also crack a whip and clear out a temple. He's forgiving and loving, but he can call a white-washed tomb when he sees one. He says “Peace be with you” but he also came to bring a sword. He raises the bar on the law – showing how sin not just in deeds but in words and even in thoughts. But he also makes known the Gospel, for he is the messenger and he is the message – Christ crucified for sinners like you and me.
It's in this Jesus that we have life. A Jesus of the Old and New Testaments. A Jesus of both Law and Gospel. A Jesus that fulfills all of Scripture, Alpha to Omega. He's not just a tree, he's the forest. He's not just a “by the way”. He's the point.