How to Read the Bible

Jesus said, “You pore over the Scriptures because you suppose that in them you have eternal life.  These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40).

People often pass by those words of Jesus without a second thought.  In those words, Jesus is teaching the Pharisees, and us, about His authority and identity.  He is letting us know that He is the Messiah of which the Old Testament Scriptures prophesied.

Yet, Jesus isn’t just saying that the Old Testament happens to mentions Him.  It’s not as if the Old Testament is a series of stories, which happen to talk about the Messiah.  Sure, those prophecies of the Messiah are in the Old Testament: What the Messiah would do and what He would be like.  But it doesn’t stop there!

What Jesus is saying is that all the Scriptures testify of Him.  In other words, the entire Old Testament points to, revolves around, and is rooted in Him.  He’s not an appendix or sidebar.  Jesus is the main point.  He’s is the beating heart of the Old Testament.

As the Apostle John puts it, Jesus is the living Word of God.  He is the Word who became flesh.  He sojourned among us.  And we gazed on His glory, the glory of the One-and-Only of the Father, full of grace and truth.

While reading Scripture, you look at the markings on the page, you vocalize the sounds those markings represent.  Yet, you will never know the Word of God unless you know Jesus.  You will never properly understand the Old Testament apart from Him.  Every book, story, and point made in the Old Testament eventually takes you to Jesus.  If you miss that, you misread the Scripture.

The Pharisees and the other Jewish leaders couldn’t see the forest through the trees.  They searched and searched the Scriptures, looking for life, but only finding condemnation where they thought they had found purpose.  Scripture for them had become a book of tips on how to live life.

Looking for life only in the Law is a futile endeavor.  It is as the Apostle Paul tells us: the Law kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6).  For it is the Holy Spirit who points us and leads us to Jesus, the Messiah.  He enlightens us, so we can better understand the Word–and that Word is Jesus Christ!

When we see Jesus at the center of the Old Testament like He tells us He is, that informs our understanding of it.  It is one of the chief principles to consider when taking up a text.  When reading Scripture, the first questions we should ask are these: “Where is Jesus in these words?  Where is Jesus, who is the Word, in the Word?”

When you ask such questions, you will start to see Jesus everywhere.  You’ll see Him in the Garden of Eden–the promised seed of the woman.  You’ll seem him in the Exodus, the Passover lamb.  You’ll see him in Leviticus, the great High Priest.  You’ll see Him in Melchizedek, Moses, David, and Solomon–in all who foreshadowed the Messiah.  You’ll see Him in the Angel of the Lord.  You’ll see Him in the lives of the prophets, and in the Suffering Servant of Isaiah.  He’s the true temple.  He’s the true Israel.  He’s the Son of Man.  He’s the bridegroom in the Song of Solomon.  He’s the forgiving husband portrayed by Hosea.  He’s even in the fiery furnace with the three men in Daniel.

Now, this Christ-centered view of Scripture also applies to the New Testament.  For the Jesus of Scripture is the Jesus of all Scripture, not just the Old Testament.  He is the Messiah of the Old and New Testaments.  He is the Jesus who fulfills all of Scripture, Alpha to Omega, A to Z.  He’s not just a tree; He’s the forest.  He’s not simply a person in the Bible, He’s is the Person.  Amen.