During his days on this earth, Jesus found himself involved in many conflicts with the people of Israel. During one of these conflicts, he spoke a series of surprising words that have a profound impact on how we understand the Bible. He said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39).
Keep in mind—at this point—the New Testament had yet to be written. When anyone spoke about the ‘Scriptures,’ they were referring exclusively to the Old Testament with its histories, laws, feasts, rituals, and genealogies. Jesus claimed these Scriptures bear witness about him, in spite of the fact that many of them were written thousands of years before he was born.
Later in his ministry, after his death and resurrection, Jesus would prove these claims to a group of his disciples. While walking with them down the road, we are told that “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
From these two passages, we can see that understanding the Old Testament requires understanding the importance of Jesus. Like a door that remains locked without the proper key, or like a secret message that can only be decoded with the proper cipher, the Old Testament can only be properly understood when we realize Jesus is the key to its meaning. Armed with this knowledge, what may have seemed distant and irrelevant suddenly takes on greater weight and meaning, and parts of the Bible that once left us feeling cold and confused begin to produce joy like they never could before.
From the very beginning of the book of Genesis to the final verses of the prophet Malachi, the Old Testament is filled with shadows of God’s plan of salvation fulfilled. At the time the Old Testament was written, God’s people did not know what the future would hold. Today, we have the privilege of hindsight; we have the privilege of seeing how all the events of the Old Testament come together to tell one cohesive story of God’s salvation through the life and death of Jesus. Just as the back of a tapestry looks like nothing more than a mess of yarn and string before it is flipped around, the people of the time could not see what God was doing. But we have the privilege of seeing the other side of the tapestry, and in it we see the face of Jesus. We can see that Jesus is the key—not only to understanding the Old Testament, but finding joy in it as well.
This year, whenever you read the Old Testament, remember that Jesus is the key to unlocking its meaning and finding joy in it. Ask yourself the question, “where can I see Jesus in this passage?” Because, in the words of one of my favourite children’s books—every story whispers his name.
All the best,