Understanding the OT as Jesus Taught it
I pray all is well with each one of you. My goal today is to help you “unlock” scriptural understanding of the Old Testament, if you have not yet done so in your life.
To do this we will continue our look as to how Jesus ‘opened the minds” of the disciples after his resurrection. His teaching here focuses their minds in a way that Israelites had never focused their minds before. Instead of the focus being on Abraham, Moses, the Law or the Prophets, or the teachings of the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law, their focus was to be on Jesus Christ. They were being taught to view the scriptures through the lens of Jesus Christ.
For us today this is nothing new. Jesus is the obvious focus for all of us understanding the scriptures, especially in the New Testament. But do we really understand the Old Testament scriptures this way? I say that many of us do not. In the verses that we are going to look at today, we are going to be taught, as Jesus did the disciples: To see the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus Christ.
The name Jesus is not mentioned in the Old Testament. But if you read the Old Testament with an eye towards Jesus, you will see him throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. Look for the Messiah and you will find him. This is just what Jesus is teaching to his disciples immediately after his resurrection. We will begin today with Matthew 6:22-23,
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
If we read the New Testament with our eye on Jesus, why then should we not read the Old Testament in the same way? This is just common sense. It is how Jesus would teach us because it is exactly how he taught his disciples. If we read the New Testament in a worldly view, with no eye towards Jesus, we can come away not hearing or feeling the love of Christ. Many people with no relationship to Jesus read the Bible this way all the time, Old and New Testament.
Allow me to contextualize this verse a little. In many ways, during ancient times, the learned people of the day believed that the eyes were a window into a person’s heart, even their soul. I can testify to seeing this in ministry, the light versus darkness, good versus evil, righteousness versus sinfulness are all daily occurring conflicts. If your eye is focused on darkness, evil, and sin, your behavior follows accordingly. The same can be said if you are focused on light, good, and righteousness. Your behavior will follow that path. What if you want to change your path from one of darkness? What should you do? Jesus would say that you should focus your eye upon the Light of the world, Jesus himself. For review, Luke 24:44-45, this is Jesus,
“He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures.”
Jesus turned the disciples’ focus, their eyes, if you will, onto himself, the one and only Light of the world. This opened their minds and allowed them to “understand the scriptures”.
Let’s do this together, join me as we navigate lightly through Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53:1-3,
“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
Now remember, Isaiah’s time was 600 years before that of Jesus. Jesus had no royal trappings, no clue to his deity from his appearance or his upbringing. The word for suffering in Hebrew means that Jesus knew both physical pain and mental anguish. Many of us, myself included, can attest to the fact that emotional and mental anguish is worse than physical pain. He carried all of our physical and mental pain, from each human ever born, from Alpha to Omega. Just imagine the totality of this pain and burden. The worst of Jesus’ anguish will come from His Father turning away his face from Jesus, just as men hide their faces. Micah 3:4,
“Then they will cry out to the Lord, but he will not answer them. At that time he will hide his face from them because of the evil they have done.”
Mankind will avert their eyes due to guilt and horror of Christ's death. But God will avert his eyes from Jesus for a brief time, the very time that he is carrying the sin of all men and women on his shoulders. This is the worst of the suffering for Jesus. This is what he dreads the most. The brief lapse of fellowship with his heavenly Father. As in Micah, sin and disobedience lead to separation from God. So for Jesus, though innocent, as the carrier of my sin and your sin, he too is separated from God. Isaiah 53:4-6, listen to the details of this passage and compare it to the details of the cross 600 or so years later.
“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Jesus was our scapegoat. He took all of our sins, and because of this God hid his righteous face from his perfect Son. There is a precedence for this, in Leviticus 16:20-22,
“When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites – all their sins – and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert.”
This is the substitutionary atonement that we receive through Jesus Christ. Aaron’s ritual for the Day of Atonement was once every year. Christ’s atonement for us was once, and for all of us.
However, Christ was not a goat, he was a lamb, the Lamb of God. Jesus was sacrificed just as a lamb would be. Isaiah 53:7-9, listen again to the words and how these words match up perfectly to the historical record of the cross, 600 years or so earlier.
“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.”
Jesus’ life was just the opposite of that which his punishment would indicate. He died as a common criminal, thief, or murderer. He was an innocent man, completely innocent. Just like a baby lamb. Soft and lovable, innocent. Isaiah 53:10-12,
“Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
As Jesus descends into darkness with our sins, he will see the light of life and be satisfied. This Light of Life, is the very same light that Jesus, as the Light of the world carries. My prayer is that we can all keep our eyes focused on this same light.
What are you focused on today? Is it the darkness of this world, filled with pornography, lust, violence, lies, and greed? Or are you focused on the Light of the world Jesus Christ?
If you are having a hard time seeing Jesus at work in your life or understanding the scriptures, it might just be that you need to change the focus of your eyes.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC