The Things in All Scripture Concerning Christ

“The Pilgrims of Emmaus on the Road” by James Tissot

Click here to listen to this sermon.

“And He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:25–27).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

This story, recorded only by Luke, masterfully paints a picture of the atmosphere at the end of Passover. The empty tomb has not awakened any faith. It has only increased the weight of all the inconceivable things with which the disciples have had to wrestle. Two deeply disillusioned men are now walking home. All that they expected of the One whom they believed to be God’s Messiah has come to nothing. They are shaken, upset, and without hope.

Then a stranger comes and asks what they are talking about. They are shocked that he doesn’t know about it. All of Jerusalem is abuzz. It had seemed as if the mighty prophet from Nazareth would bring redemption to Israel, but His death by crucifixion had dashed their hopes. Even the report of the women of the empty tomb and the angels’ message has failed to lift their spirits. One thing is missing: The risen Jesus has not been seen.

The stranger rebukes them: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory!” (Luke 24:26). And then He takes them through what all the Scriptures have said about the Messiah and how He must be rejected, suffer, and die before rising.

Drawing near their village, the two travelers persuade the stranger to spend the night with them. They enter and recline at the table. Then the stranger takes the bread, as if He is the host, gives the blessing, and breaks it. Only now do they recognize Him. But at the same moment, Jesus is gone.

The account shows us what faith in the resurrection is built on in the early church. The empty grave is a fact, but it does not prove anything in and of itself. The decisive thing is that Jesus Himself seeks out His disciples and reveals Himself to them. But to understand what it means that He rose, something more is needed. A person has to understand the Scriptures. It was with the help of these testimonies that a person could see and believe. And they needed a communal meal, the Lord’s Supper. Faith in the resurrection is faith in the living Lord who comes to His own in the Word and in the Lord’s Supper. These gifts are there for all of us, and we are given the same certainty through them.

Throughout his Gospel, Luke’s method of interpretation is not to cite proof passages from the Old Testament and then follow the quotations with explanation. Luke’s method is to portray Jesus as the final fulfillment of the pattern set by Moses, the prophets, and the psalmists.

Let’s look at a few of the examples found in Luke’s Gospel of Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Testament, beginning with Moses.

In Deuteronomy 18:15-20, Yahweh promises to raise up a prophet like Moses from among his brothers in Israel; “It is to Him you shall listen,” He adds. The prophet like Moses will speak God’s Word and insulate them from the fiery glory of God’s appearance on Mount Sinai so that they will live and not die (Deuteronomy 18:16). In Luke, Jesus serves in this capacity when He enables the fearful disciples to enter the cloud of God’s glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. There, the voice of the Father declares, “This is My Son, My Chosen One, listen to Him” (Luke 9:35). Through Moses, God had told His people that they would recognize this true prophet (and all true prophets) by this: what He speaks in Yahweh’s name will come true (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). That same assertion of prophetic truth is what Jesus teaches the disciples on the road to Emmaus: all that God spoke through Moses and the prophets has now come true through Him.

Moses’ leadership of the people in exodus and journey to the Promised Land set the Old Testament pattern for Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem for His “exodus,” His death and resurrection, about which Moses and Elijah speak to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:31).

In Exodus 13, God’s mandate through Moses for the sacrifice for the firstborn son is intertwined with Passover, since the reason for the sacrifice and the dedication of the firstborn son to Yahweh is His sparing of the firstborn Israelites on the first Passover when the firstborn sons of the Egyptians were slain. The substitutionary sacrifice for the life of the firstborns of Israel sheds light on the meaning of Jesus, Mary’s “firstborn son” (Luke 2:7). Already in the infancy narrative, the books of Moses cited by Luke are pointing toward the cross.

The exodus and Passover themes surface again in Jesus’ temptation, where three times He quotes from Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 8:3 in Luke 4:4; Deuteronomy 6:13; 10:20 in Luke 4:8; and Deuteronomy 6:16 in Luke 4:12). Though Israel falls prey to temptation during the forty years of wilderness wandering, Jesus remains faithful in forty days in the wilderness. Jesus is the obedient “Son of God” (Luke 22:70)—and His passion is the final “opportune time” (Luke 4:13) sought by the devil to tempt Jesus again.

The Passover setting is prominent in Luke’s account of the Last Supper (Luke 22:1, 7, 14-23), and passion narrative. In the background is more than just the instructions for the meal in Exodus 12. In the Last Supper, the Lamb of God, Jesus Himself becomes the atoning sacrifice that procures redemption as He says, “This is My body, which is given for you… This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:19-20).

Jesus is the fulfillment of the writings of the prophets.

Luke begins his account of Jesus’ public ministry in 4:16-30, where Jesus’ claim to fulfill Scripture is the issue that leads to His rejection at Nazareth. There, Jesus cites specific Old Testament texts to show that He fulfills the prophets through His works of teaching and miracles. Jesus quotes Isaiah 61:1-2 in His Nazareth sermon (Luke 4:18-19) to characterize the purpose of His entire ministry as the bringing of forgiveness, healing, and release from bondage.

One of the most instructive clues regarding the Old Testament witness to Christ is Luke 22:37, where Jesus purposefully quotes Isaiah 53:12 as a prophecy that He must fulfill in His imminent passion. Ironically, “numbered with the transgressors” first finds fulfillment when Jesus is in the company of the disciples, who have two swords (Luke 22:38) and who use one sword for a lawless act of violence (Luke 22:49-51). It is fulfilled again in Jesus’ crucifixion between two evildoers (Luke 23:32-33, 39-43).

The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 plays a prominent part of the Old Testament background of Jesus’ ministry and of Luke’s portrayal of Jesus’ passion and resurrection. That passage begins by anticipating the Servant’s astonishing exaltation after His disfigurement (Isaiah 52:13-15), then it portrays His afflictions and atonement for the sins of His people, ending in death and burial (Isaiah 53:1-9). Finally, it returns to the Servant’s exaltation because He lays down His life as a guilt offering and intercedes for transgressors (Isaiah 53:10-12).

As far as Jesus’ assertion that the Scriptures foretold His resurrection “on the third day” (Luke 24:46), there seems to be no explicitly predictive prophecy of it. While Matthew 12:38-42 explicitly relates Jonah’s three-day stay in the fish to Jesus’ three days in the earth, Luke develops the sign of Jonah more in terms of the preaching of Jonah, which led to repentance (Luke 11:29-32). Nevertheless, in the background of Jesus’ references to Jonah stands the three-day sequence of Jonah’s ordeal. The prophet was swallowed by a great fish, spent three days and nights in its belly, then was spit out alive on the shore. Jonah described this as a descent down to Sheol (Jonah 2:3), then affirmed that Yahweh raised up his life from the pit (Jonah 2:7). The poetic language is highly suggestive of resurrection. Considering that patternin Jonah’s ministry, Jesus chides His disciples for failing to recognize that His resurrection on the third day was prophesied in Scripture (Luke 24:46).

The importance of the psalms for explaining Jesus’ death and resurrection is emphasized by the risen Lord Himself in Luke 24:44, the verse parallel in Luke 24:27, but where Jesus adds to “Moses” and “the prophets” also “the Psalms.”

Psalm 2 describes how the “kings of the earth take their stand… against the Lord and His Anointed” (verse 2). That finds fulfillment in Jesus’ trials before Herod and Pilate, as Luke records in Luke 23: 13-25. Psalm 2 also features the Christ’s divine Sonship (2:7, 12), and “Christ” and “Son of God” were the two titles the Sanhedrin used in their accusations against Jesus during His trial (Luke 22:67, 70). But Psalm 2 ends with the promise that the Christ will be exalted and will rule over those who opposed Him (Psalm 2:9-12), portending Jesus’ resurrection. Moreover, the divine Son will inherit “the ends of the earth” (Psalm 2:8). God’s kingdom of grace in Jesus will be extended through His apostles, whom He sends to be His witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (Luke 24:47).

Psalms 22, 31, and 69 are echoed at the crucifixion of Jesus in Luke 23:34-36, 46. As noted in the commentary on those verses, the parallels go beyond the few phrases from those psalms that are cited in Luke. Those psalms certainly supply examples of predictive verbal prophecy, e.g., “dividing among themselves His clothes, they cast lots” (Psalm 22:19 as quoted in Luke 23:34). But significant too is the pattern of the psalmists’ lives as reflected in their poems. As with the prophets, Jesus fulfills the psalms by repeating and summing up in His life the pattern of the lives of all the suffering saints of the Old Testament who looked with confident hope to a better day.

The entire Old Testament tells the story of the Lord’s pursuit of His faithless people and His unfolding plan to save them. So, when Jesus appears to His disciples, He shows them how Moses, the Prophets, and Psalms all point to Him. One can only imagine how stunning it was when He opens their minds to understand the Scriptures—when they finally see that the Old Testament proclaims salvation in Jesus time and again.

We pray that God will thus open our minds to understand the Scriptures and constantly see our Lord, for such a view is not common with Christianity today. For many, salvation through Jesus Christ is just one era, not the central theme of the Bible. In such an understanding, one of two things happens. Sometimes the Old Testament is simply neglected because it’s considered irrelevant. Other times, the Old Testament is seen as a book of good advice. The moral of the story of Jonah is to make the most of your second chances. The lesson of the bronze serpent is that you should keep looking up when times are tough. The story of David and Goliath means that you need to confront your giants and slay them. The point of the psalms is not a proclamation of Christ and His mercy, but examples of how we feel when things go wrong.

All of this distorts the big picture and loses so much of the story. It makes the message of the Old Testament about what we ought to be doing, not God’s faithfulness in Christ throughout time. In doing so, it disrupts the story of your salvation and makes it seem smaller—a part of the plan rather than the reason for history. And make no mistake: this is the story of your salvation. It doesn’t begin with Luke 1 but before the foundation of the world in Genesis 1. It doesn’t end with the end of Luke 24. Instead, it keeps going. The apostles will bring this story to the ends of the earth, and it will continue until the day of Christ’s return. This story won’t just be a great story of old, but one that continues to be written even after the Scriptures are closed. It keeps going. It keeps going now.

You, in fact, have a place in the story. Somewhere along the way, the news of repentance and forgiveness in the name of Jesus made it into your ears. By God’s grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit working through His Word, you were brought to faith. You were made a child of God for the sake of Jesus.

The Gospel is not an inspirational story that promises an easy life if you follow it. It’s redemption from sin and death. The Lord Jesus who died and rose and appeared to His disciples has gathered you by His Word. He’s promised His everlasting faithfulness to you, He calls you by His Word, warning of sin and showering you with forgiveness; by His grace, you turn from sin and you trust in Him. He feeds you with His own body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, and so you heed His voice, confess your sin, and feast on His grace.

All this has happened according to God’s plan. The Lord was completely in control. He was in control of the events of the Old Testament, preparing the way for salvation in Jesus Christ. He was in control in the conception, birth, ministry, suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. And He is in control now. No matter what is happening in the world. No matter what may be happening in your life. God is in control. The risen and ascended Christ is on His throne. And for His sake, you are forgiven for all your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Success! You're on the list.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: