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Month: December 2020

Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament

Posted in books

I’ve been searching for a book that ties Jesus into the Hebrew scriptures, and this is the best one yet. It’s not a side-by-side list, which is the trend for such a comparison. I already have lists of Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfills, so I wasn’t looking for that. This is more like it. It treats the Bible as one cohesive Book—as it’s meant to be—and discusses the testaments concurrently, rather than back-and-forth. It explains God’s covenants with Israel through their history, which makes it easier to understand why Jesus had to come at all.

Israel was unique because God had a universal goal through them. Jesus embodied that uniqueness and achieved that universal goal.

For a book titled “knowing Jesus,” it spends a lot of time in the Hebrew scriptures. But to truly know him is to know his history. It explains the Law without watering it down. Christians talk often of the Good News: salvation from our sins through Jesus Christ. But what are our sins, and why do we need to be saved from them? For a topic so many people struggle to explain, this book makes it deceptively simple. The Good News isn’t just Jesus’s arrival, but what it means in relation to God’s covenants with Israel.

For what, after all, was the Good News? Nothing other than God’s commitment to bring blessing to all nations of humanity, as announced to Abraham.

In Sunday School we’re taught that anyone who opposed Israel is bad. But God used those nations, too. Egypt is the most obvious example: hard-hearted Pharaoh became a catalyst for the Hebrews to witness God’s mighty power. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon often did God’s will, knowingly or not. And there are many surrounding nations that were not evil, but simply not chosen like the Jews. People from these, nations, too, would eventually follow Jesus during his Earthly ministry. Even Abraham’s new name meant “father of many nations,” a promise that extends beyond Israel. From the beginning, the Gentiles were intended to be grafted into the family.

But in the end, it’s about Jesus himself. It discusses his mission and values in relation to the Law. It doesn’t just say “he fulfilled it,” but explains what that means. It discusses Jesus’s great responsibility to the Father. Though we know and acknowledge that Jesus is both God and man, we often forget the latter. Jesus’s humanity is just as important as his divinity. This book explores his understanding of the Torah, as a human being who has studied rather than a God who knows all.

[Jesus] was so steeped in his Hebrew scriptures that he would not only recognize the texts but also understand all that they meant for his own self-identity.

This is all summed up in why Jesus’s sacrifice was necessary—to save humanity. But it’s not until we understand the rest of it, and its relation to the Law and covenants, that we can can understand what that really means.