“The Christ of All the Scriptures”
CLXXXVII. Expositions of the Gospel According to Luke
December 25, 2016
What is the Bible all about? What is the key to understanding the Scriptures? While Jesus is traveling on the road to Emmaus seven miles to the west of Jerusalem, His identity still hidden from the two disciples whom He is accompanying, He provides the key. Jesus explains to them, in what must have been the greatest, most insightful, most moving Bible study every conducted, “the things concerning himself” found in “all the Scriptures.” “One would have given a great deal for a copy of the sermon Christ preached to them,” Matthew Henry said on behalf of Bible students all through the centuries.1
In what sense are the Scriptures about Christ? Luke explains:
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Lk 24:27)
Luke says Jesus “interpreted” (diermēneuō), or “explained,” the term from which we derive our word “hermeneutics,” the science of interpretation. Jesus took them from one end of the Bible to the other, beginning with the five books of Moses, then the Prophets, including “all the Scriptures,” explaining that He, the Messiah, is its central theme. Christ is the message of “all the Scriptures. “A golden thread of gospel grace runs through the whole web of the Old Testament,” says Henry.2 They believed Moses and the Prophets. They just hadn’t believed all that Moses and the prophets had said (v 25).3 Consequently, they misunderstood its central message. “Once losing sight of Christ,” says Ryle, “we shall find the whole Bible dark and full of difficulty.”4
What is the basic thematic thread that runs through Scripture from Genesis to Revelation? Many people find the Bible to be a confusing book. Consisting of a collection of 66 books, multiple authors, written over a period of nearly 1500 years, containing various genres of poetry, wisdom, historical narrative, and prophesy, the question arises, what does it all mean?
One might be excused if thinking that the Bible were a guide to getting along well in this world. So much preaching gives the impression that the Bible is primarily about how to prosper, or how to maintain good health, or how to have a successful marriage, or how to raise one’s children. We would understand if one listening to today’s preaching thought that the Bible were merely a book full of advice on how to find personal happiness. The Bible indeed does have much to say to us about these subjects, but these are not its central concern. Its primary message is spiritual. Its concerns are eternal. The Bible gives us the story of creation – fall – redemption, Paradise lost, Paradise regained. It is that simple. God creates the world, including Adam and Eve (Gen 1, 2). Our first parents rebel against God, are banished from His presence, cursed, and condemned to death, both temporal and eternal (Gen 3). Yet immediately God promises a way of redemption, that is, salvation and deliverance, in the cursing of the serpent.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel. (Gen 3:15)
This is known as the proto euangelion, the first announcement of the gospel, as God promises that a Son of the woman will fatally wound the serpent’s head while Himself being wounded in the process. The shedding of blood and redemption are connected from the very beginning (Gen 3:21; 4:4, 5).
The whole rest of the Bible is about means by which that Son, the Messiah, the Christ, will be brought into the world, and salvation accomplished. Genesis 12 reveals that it will be through the descendants of Abraham that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3). It will be through his son Isaac (not Ishmael), his son Jacob (not Esau), and his 12 sons who are the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel. From the 12 tribes, it will be through Judah, through the family of Jesse, through David that the Christ will be brought into the world. “In the fullness of time” Jesus Christ is born, lives, dies, rises again, having procured salvation for His people (Gal 4:4). In the last chapter of the last book of the Bible, paradise is reopened, humanity is saved, the tree of life reappears (Rev 22:2), fellowship with God is restored (Rev. 21:1-7). That is the big picture. The Bible teaches us what we really need to know: how to get right with our Maker and Judge; how Jesus reconciles us to the God whom we were made to know and apart from whom life is an unceasing exercise in futility.
Let’s step back and look more closely at the people of Israel, from Genesis 12 to Malachi, who are the concern of most of the Old Testament. We see Jesus in the central purpose of Israel’s history. The Bible doesn’t present history for history’s sake, but that we might see Christ. God calls Israel as a whole “my son” (Ex 4:22). Israel is the son through which the nations will be blessed (Gen 12:3). Yet Israel was a defective son, unfaithful, disobedient, and on whose account “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” says the Apostle Paul, citing the prophet Isaiah (Rom 2:24; Isa 52:5). Jesus then comes as the true Son of God, redoing, undoing, and redeeming Israel’s failed sonship. Did Israel sojourn in Egypt from the days of Joseph to the days of Moses? So also did Jesus flee to Egypt and remain for a time (Mt 2:13ff). Was Israel called out of Egypt, led by Moses? So also did Jesus return from Egypt: “Out of Egypt I called my son,” says Matthew, applying Hosea’s words to Jesus (Mt 2:15; Hos 11:1). Did Israel spend 40 years in the wilderness? So also did Jesus spend 40 days in the wilderness (Mt 4:1-11; Mk 1:12, 13; Lk 4:1-13). Did Israel cross the Jordan River (even baptized, 1 Cor 10:2)? So also was Jesus baptized in the Jordan (Mt 3:13-17, Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3:21, 22), God declaring “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Lk 3:22). Jesus is the true Israelite, God’s true Son. Consider J. A. Motyer’s summary of what it would have been like for a believer during the Old Testament period to give his or her “testimony”:
We were in a foreign land, in bondage, under the sentence of death. But our mediator – the one who stands between us and God – came to us with the promise of deliverance. We trusted in the promises of God, took shelter under the blood of the lamb, and he led us out. Now we are on the way to the Promised Land. We are not there yet, of course, but we have the law to guide us, and through blood sacrifice we also have his presence in our midst. So he will stay with us until we get to our true country, our everlasting home.
Then Motyer concluded: “Now think about it. A Christian today could say the same thing, almost word for word.”5 The Old Testament is not a mysterious document, one exceedingly difficult for us today to unlock. There is not a dichotomy between the teaching of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The whole history of Israel provides the pattern for what the Messiah would do. The Old Testament is about Christ. The Old Testament, like the New Testament, teaches that salvation is by faith, by grace, by Christ.
We also see Jesus in Israel’s institutions, as they foreshadow that which Messiah would do. Was Israel not led by its prophets, priests, and kings? So also Jesus fulfilled the offices of prophet, priest, and king. The prophet Moses went up to Mt. Sinai, to deliver the Law to Israel. So also Jesus went “upon the mountain,” Moses-like, and delivered His exposition on the Law, what we call the “Sermon on the Mount” (Mt 5:1ff). We need a prophet to reveal to us the truth of God. Jesus is that Prophet foreshadowed by all the prophets. He is the promised “prophet like Moses” whom God would raise up to save His people (Deut 18:15; cited by Peter in his second sermon, Acts 3:22, 23).
Israel’s priests offered sacrifices on God’s altars and thereby made atonement. We need a priestly mediator to offer a sacrifice on our behalf, for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin” (Heb 9:22). Is Jesus not our High Priest, the fulfillment of both the Levitical and Melchizedekian priesthoods, the One to whom they both pointed, who offered up Himself, “once for all” (Heb 7:27; cf 9:26; 10:6-14)?
Is Jesus not the true son and successor of David (Mt 1:1; Lk 3:31), both “Son of the Most High,” as Gabriel announced to Mary, saying, “The Lord will give him the throne of his father David” (Lk 1:32)? Is He not the true King of Israel, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:30-36), the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev 17:14; 19:16; cf 1 Tim 6:15)? Do we not need One to govern and rule over us, as well as protect and defend us? Israel’s institutions and leaders are not presented in the Bible so that we might learn principles of government and a well-ordered society, though they are useful to that end. They are meant to provide a glimpse of Christ.
Then there are all the types and prophesies by which the work of Christ was foreshadowed and predicted in the Old Testament. Not only did the flawed prophets, priests, and kings anticipate the offices that Christ would fulfill and perfect, but there were other institutions and items as well. The temple in which the Spirit of Christ dwelt foreshadowed the body of Christ, the true temple of God (Jn 2:18-22). The lambs offered in sacrifice foreshadowed the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). The whole apparatus of sacrifice, from the building, the personnel, the furnishings, the ritual, the garments, all point to Christ. They had no efficacy in themselves. It was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats would provide adequate payment for sin (Heb 10:4). Their efficacy was in that to which they pointed, Christ. The sacrificial system, which stood at the center of the life of Israel with temple and priesthood, with the daily and annual sacrifices, was nothing but a portrait of Christ. It was filled with types and shadows of that which Messiah would do.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the whole Old Testament is a revelation of the coming Messiah. “Moses wrote of me,” Jesus announced (Jn 5:46). He rebuked His detractors saying,
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, (Jn 5:39)
“The Scriptures… bear witness about me,” Jesus insists.
And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. (Acts 3:24)
Which prophets spoke of Christ? “All the prophets,” says Peter, prophesied of what days? “Those days,” the days of Messiah. Jesus said,
“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” (Jn 8:56)
The patriarchs and all the godly rejoiced in anticipation of the day of the Messiah. “They are not to be heard,” says the seventh of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (1662), “which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises.” The patriarchs set their hopes on the Messiah.
There are also a number of passages in which Israel’s king is described in such idealized terms, and his reign in such exalted language that both in Judaism as well as early Christianity it was understood that these texts pointed beyond the present occupant of David’s throne to the Son of David. For example, when God promises of David “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever,” we realize by the end of 2 Kings that with the death of the last Davidic king this promise could only be fulfilled in Christ, not in a merely earthly descendent (2 Sam 7:13, 16; cf Heb 1:5). Psalm 45 is typically classified as a royal psalm, celebrating a royal wedding. When it breaks into this praise,
6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; (Ps 45:6, 7),
we realize that this can only fully apply to a greater than David, the Son of God as Hebrews declares (Heb 1:8, 9). The superscription of Psalm 72 reads, “of Solomon.” Yet its aspirations for Solomon, expressed in its petitions, could never be fulfilled by Solomon, but only by a future, greater Son.
8 May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!
9 May desert tribes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
11 May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him! (Ps 72:8-11)
The queen of Sheba came with gifts to Solomon (1 Kg 10:1-13). Yet her actions pointed to that “greater than Solomon” (Lk 11:31) to whom the Magi came, representing as they did the adoration of the nations (Mt 2:1-12). All kings and all nations never served Israel’s kings. These ideals could only be fulfilled in the King.
Psalm 110 is a Psalm of David. He writes,
The Lord says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.” (Ps 110:1)
It is not David who is to sit at God’s right hand, but David’s Son, the Messiah, as all Judaism understood. Yet, as Jesus asked, how could He be David’s son and Lord? Only because He is the God-Man (Acts 2:34-36; Lk 20:41-44). Only He could be “a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek” (Ps 110:4; Heb 5:6; 7:1-28). Only of Messiah could this exalted language apply. He is that descendent of Judah, that Shiloh from whom the scepter shall not depart (Gen 49:10). He is the child of the virgin whose name shall be called Immanuel (Isa 7:14; Mt 1:23). He is the ruler who would come from Bethlehem of Judea, who would shepherd God’s people, Israel (Mic 5:2; Mt 2:6). He is that great light from Galilee of the Gentiles who will shine on those who walked in darkness (Isa 9:1). He is the promised child so eloquently prophesied by Isaiah:
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isa 9:6, 7)
“Wonderful counselor.” “Mighty God.” “Everlasting Father.” “Prince of Peace.” Forever to occupy “the throne of David.” This is a prophesy of Christ and of His righteous rule. He is the “stump” or “rod” and “branch” from Jesse upon whom the Spirit of God would rest (Isa 11:1ff).
He is also the One whose redemptive suffering would bring salvation to the world, the chief oversight of Jesus’ contemporaries in their reading of the Bible. He is the stone rejected that becomes the chief cornerstone (Ps 118:22; Lk 20:17). He is the Suffering Servant and Lord of Isaiah 52:13-53:12, the “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” who is “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (Isa 53:7; Acts 8:32, 33), and yet “out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied,” and shall “make many to be accounted righteous” and “bear their iniquities” (Isa 53:11). David suffered and cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1a). Yet only of Christ could it be said,
16 For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots. (Ps 22:16-18)
Garments divided? Lots cast for His clothing? Pierced hands and feet? Who is this, but the Christ? He is that “anointed one” who would be “cut off and shall have nothing” (Dan 9:26).
David once prayed,
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption. (Ps 16:10)
Yet, as Peter explained in his Pentecost sermon,
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne,31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. (Acts 2:29-31)
We’ve seen Israel’s hopes of the righteous rule of Messiah, of the end of oppression and wickedness, and of the reign of justice in Him (Pss 45 & 72). This is evident also in Psalm 2, Isaiah 2:1-5, and Isaiah 11:1-10. Their hopes included that of a world at peace where war, crime, and violence are ended, where all the earth is a “peaceable kingdom.” From “a shoot from the stump of Jesse” shall come a world in which,
6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.
9 They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Isa 11:6-9)
This is the hope of Israel, resting on the Messiah. Who else but Christ could bring “peace on earth” (Lk 2:14)? Who else could make the lion and the lamb to lie down together? Brethren, the whole Bible is about the Messiah. We have provided but a sample of how the Bible is centered upon Him. When the Apostle Paul says he is determined to know nothing but “Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” this is not a limiting principle (1 Cor 2:2). When he says, “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23), or “him we proclaim” (Col 1:28), he is not restricting himself to a few New Testament gospel topics endlessly repeated. Rather, he is identifying the window through which the whole of God’s self-revelation in Scripture is to be understood. Old Testament history, institutions, ideals and hopes all point to Christ. “You cannot go far in any part of scripture,” says Henry, “but you meet with something that has reference to Christ, some prophesy, some promise, some prayer, some type or other; for he is the true treasure hid in the field of the Old Testament.”6The Old Testament predicts Messiah’s arrival and delivers Him to us in the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4). The New Testament identifies Messiah as Jesus of Nazareth, presents His life, death, and resurrection in the four gospels, describes the expansion of His church in Acts, applies His teaching to the churches in the epistles, and foretells His return and the consummation of His kingdom in the Revelation.
The Scripture is not a “how to” book mapping the path for success in this world. It isn’t, because our all-wise God knows that temporal prosperity is not our fundamental need. What we truly need is to get right with our Maker and Judge, before whom we will one day stand. Life, after all, is short and eternity is long. God therefore committed to writing the Scriptures, even the Old Testament Scriptures to which Jesus is pointing, whose purpose is “to make (us) wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15). They were written “that through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4). Hope of what? Hope of salvation in the Messiah, the Christ, even Jesus our Lord.
Henry, on Luke 24:7.
“Christ is author, object, matter, and mark of Old and New Testaments” (Trapp, V:343).”All the scriptures have their fulfillment in a Messiah who suffers” (Green, 848).
Cited by Justin Taylor, “J. Alec Motyer (1924-2016)”, www.blogs.thegospelcoalition.org, Aug. 26, 2016.
Henry, on Luke 24:27. Also Ryle: “Christ was the substance of every Old Testament sacrifice… Christ was the true Deliverer and King, of whom all the judges and deliverers in Jewish history were types. Christ was the coming Prophet greater than Moses, whose glorious advent filled the pages of the prophets. Christ was the true seed of the woman who was to bruise the serpent’s head, ––the true seed in whom all nations were to be blessed, ––the true Shiloh to whom the people were to be gathered, ––the true scape-goat, ––the true brazen serpent, ––the true High Priest of whom every descendant of Aaron was a figure. These things, or something like them, we need not doubt, were some of the things which our Lord expounded in the way to Emmaus” (II:501).