Jesus in the Old Testament

OT pointing forward to the New (610x351)This is our pastor’s article for our July congregational newsletter, helping us to see Jesus in the Old Testament.


While speaking to “the Jewish leaders [who] were trying all the harder to kill him,” Jesus said: “You pore over the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. These Scriptures testify of me” (John 5:18, 39). In that one verse, Jesus said that He gives life, not the Scriptures. Now, the Scriptures do have value, but not in themselves; they have value because they bring us Christ. Apart from that, they do not serve their God-ordained purpose.

And if the Old Testament testifies of Christ, then He is the promised Son, who will smash the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). Jesus is the Ruler of Judah (Genesis 49:8-12) and the Prophet like, but greater than, Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15). He is King David’s Descendant, who is also David’s Lord (2 Samuel 7:4-17, Psalm 110:1-2). Jesus is the virgin’s Son, who is God-with-Us, Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14). Jesus incarnate became the radiant reflection of God’s wisdom and glory (Wisdom 7:26, Hebrews 1:3). He became the crucified and resurrected Servant of whom Isaiah prophesied (Isaiah 52:13-53:12).

All the Scriptures testify of Jesus! And in the New Covenant, Christ’s Church has responded to that truth with joy. “In many portions and many ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets. But in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). “Even the prophets, who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours, studied and carefully researched this salvation. They examined what the Spirit of Christ within them had predicted, the time and circumstances of Christ’s sufferings and the glory to follow” (1 Peter 1:10-11).

And so we learn that even the Old-Testament prophets searched the Scriptures of their day (for not all the Scriptures were yet written). But their searching differed from the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time. The Old-Testament prophets searched the Scriptures to find the prophesied Messiah, who gave life! The religious leaders who attacked Christ, instead, quoted the Old Testament to support their approval in His death (Wisdom 2:17-22, Matthew 27:41-43).

Luther wrote, “All of Scripture everywhere deals only with Christ” (WA 46, 414). But how do the Scriptures testify of Jesus? Let’s see! The Old-Testament Scriptures point forward to Jesus, even mentioning His Incarnation (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23), birthplace (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:6), and death (Isaiah 53, Acts 8:32-35).

God also used people in the Old Covenant, described in the Old Testament, to reveal part of who the promised Messiah would be or what He would do. We see this in Adam (Genesis 1-3, Romans 5), Melchizedek (Genesis 14; Hebrews 7), David (2 Samuel 7; Luke 1:31-33), and Jonah (Jonah 1-2, Matthew 12:39-40), just to name a few.

We learn of Christ in events that God brought into being for His Old-Covenant people. God saved His people in the waters of the Red Sea and then gave them food and drink. That pointed forward to the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper that Jesus would institute (Exodus 14, 1 Corinthians 10:1-4). The snake on the pole during Israel’s wandering pointed forward to Jesus on the cross (Numbers 21:7-9, John 3:14-15). Even all the Old-Covenant sacrifices find their fulfillment in Christ (Leviticus, John 1:29).

And if that’s not enough, even all the distinct, Old-Covenant worship forms, even the Tabernacle and the Temple, served to point forward to Jesus (John 1:14, where “tabernacle” is used as a verb; 2:21). Scripture shows us how Jesus would fulfill all that, directing His people toward the New Covenant, which would supersede the Old. Even the Old-Covenant priesthood looked anticipated Christ being our Priest (Exodus 28-29, Hebrews 7-10).

What I’ve mentioned, so far, just scratches the surface. And so, when you read the Old Testament, don’t see it as strange writings that no longer apply. Don’t see the Old Testament as just archaic stories of an odd and foreign culture, bent on sinning and straying from God. Ask yourself, “Where is Christ in all this?” For that’s the question that Jesus would have you ask. Amen.