In Tanak, Stitches In Time, we discussed the overall structure of the Tanak and the canonical seams that connect the Law (Torah), Prophets (Nevi’im) and the Writings (Ketuvim). It was demonstrated that the completed work of the Old Testament was intentionally Messianic, systematically organized to lead the Jewish people to the prophet like Moses who was certain to come!
That leads us to an important question today. Is it possible to know what Jesus taught His first disciples about Bible prophecy? The answer is important to every disciple of Jesus today. If Jesus instructed His first disciples how to interpret the Hebrew Bible, their New Testament writings would be based on what they learned directly from Him. If we can identify how the disciples interpreted the Old Testament, wouldn’t that inform our interpretation of God’s completed revelation today?
Often, our rational minds get in the way of taking God at His Word. So it was for Peter, John and all of Jesus’ closest followers on the morning of His resurrection (Luke 24:1-12). Even though they had previously heard what was going to happen in the days ahead, the disciples refused to believe the testimony of the women who had visited the tomb and found it empty.
On the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-21), two of Jesus’ followers headed home in despair. Along the way, they met a stranger and expressed their sorrow to him. His response. “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Starting with Moses’ writings and continuing on through all of Israel’s prophets, the Stranger explained all of the things that Scripture said would happen to Israel’s Messiah.
Once their eyes were opened to the Stranger’s identity, they hurriedly returned to Jerusalem to tell their story to the others. Appearing in their midst, Jesus asked for something to eat. Then He said, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses (Torah) and the Prophets (Nevi’im) and the Psalms (Ketuvim) must be fulfilled. (Luke 24:44)”
In both of these Resurrection Day appearances, Yeshua explained how the entire body of the Tanak (Old Testament) was to be interpreted. As the Word made flesh, Yeshua is the main character of the Tanak. In both instances, He demonstrated that spiritual enlightenment was necessary for His disciples to see and understand what the Scriptures teach (See John 3:1-7). Once their eyes were opened and they were reminded what He had previously taught them, they understood Jesus’s calling on the rest of their lives.
For some of the disciples, their future work would include the writing of the New Testament. Matthew and John provided first-person eyewitness accounts of Jesus’s life and ministry. Mark’s account is largely based on Peter’s testimony. The Gospel of Luke is a compilation of eyewitness testimonies from among Jesus’s first followers. Luke’s accounts of Jesus’s life and the advance of the early Church is firmly rooted in the interpretive model that Jesus both practiced and taught. The Gospels and the book of Acts reveal what Jesus taught His followers about the interpretation of the Old Testament.
Matthew’s Gospel was written to a mostly Jewish audience. The Jewish people were the ones to whom the oracles of God were entrusted (Romans 3:2). Because his readers already had a great appreciation and knowledge of the Tanak, Matthew uses more Old Testament prophecy than the other Gospel writers. In Chapter 2, Matthew demonstrates the four different ways that Jesus taught him to view the prophecies concerning Himself.
Direct Fulfillment: Matthew 2:5-6 / Micah 5:2
Typical Fulfillment: Matthew 2:15 / Hosea 11:1
Applicational Fulfillment: Matthew 2:16-18 / Jeremiah 31:15
Summary Fulfillment: Matthew 2:19-23 / All The Prophets
In the next edition of this blog, we will take a closer look at the four ways listed above that Jesus taught to His followers in interpreting Messianic prophecy.
Making the Spiritual Stitch
Let’s make the spiritual stitch concerning what we have discussed today. Frequently on the tours I lead in Israel, I take groups to participate in an archeological dig being conducted at Tel Maresha. This was the area where Herod Antipater, Herod the Great’s father once lived. Archeological Expeditions uses tourist labor to haul fill dirt out of what was once an underground city. My amateur, yet hard working, archeologists are always thrilled to discover something recognizable. Occasionally, someone is fortunate enough to find a piece that has remained unbroken and intact.
Participants in the dig carefully put the fill dirt in buckets that are hauled to the surface and sifted for pieces of pottery, bones, and more. The pieces are collected by the dig supervisor and tagged with information about where the sample was found. They are taken to a shed where the individual pieces are inspected and possibly reassembled using the other pieces found in that area.
The most important pieces used in reassembly are the “profiles.” Profiles are usually the base, handle, or rim of what was once a pot, lamp, or amphora (wine container). The profiles used in assembly are like the corners and edges of a jigsaw puzzle. They identify the shape and size of the puzzle. By using the profiles, and joining them with the other more nondescript pieces, the original shape and the intended use of the piece can be discovered.
The main stories of the Old Testament are the profiles found in an archaeological dig. Putting them in their proper position provides insight into what the similar pieces used to be. In the case of the Old Testament writings, their intended purpose was to point to the Messiah who was certain to come. The individual messianic prophecies of the Old Testament cannot be understood outside of their overall context including the author’s own understanding and purpose for his writing. Standing alone, the individual messianic prophecies have little meaning. However, when they are connected to the larger more identifiable components, they produce a comprehensive and fleshed out picture of Messiah Jesus at both His first and second coming.
Telling The Story of God’s Glory
One of the great joys of the believer’s life is having the opportunity to share what they believe with those who do not know the Savior. Nothing is more rewarding in this life (or in the next) than being used to lead someone to personal faith in Messiah Jesus and then to help them begin to grow strong. If discipled properly, they will eventually begin to do for others what you did for them!
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