25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
The passage may be familiar to you, particularly since Christians around the world just celebrated Easter. The Risen Lord Jesus appears on the day of Resurrection and comes upon two disciples, Cleopas and an unnamed disciple as they are discussing the events of the last few days. They are talking about how they had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah, but that with His death all of their hopes are now dashed and they are going home confused and sad.
Can you imagine how silly they felt when they later realize they have been talking with Jesus telling Him how he disappointed them by eternally taking away their sins? The bumbling of those that Jesus loves (including myself) amazes me. His love for us bumbling fools amazes me more.
In response to their questioning, interestingly, Jesus does not remind them of His words of the last three years of ministry including those times he taught about His death and resurrection. He could have just said, “Do you remember when Jesus said that He would be betrayed” for example. He also does not rebuke them for not seeing the work of God, the Risen Jesus walking with them. A holy “DUH!” would have been my response. Instead, Jesus leads them through what was likely the greatest Bible study of all time. From Moses and the prophets, Jesus takes these two disciples through what we refer to as the Old Testament and likely explains the very same concept he earlier expressed to the religious leaders, that they searched the Scriptures because in them they thought they had eternal life, but it is the Scriptures that testify to Jesus. The Gospels had not yet been written at this point so this is the Old Testament Jesus is referring to as testifying to Him!
Jesus came not to do away with the Old Testament but to fulfill it and yet there are many in the Body of Christ who have no interest in the Old Testament or even worse believe that it has no relevance for the church today and therefore have no idea of what is in it. I would submit that those who forsake studying the Old Testament are greatly missing out, if only from the perspective of fully understanding the words and teachings of Jesus.
When Jesus was being tempted by Satan, He relied on quoting from the Old Testament to provide His defense. When Jesus was teaching about His resurrection, He referred to the prophet Jonah being three days in the belly of a whale. When he taught about the End Times and His second coming, He referenced Noah and the Ark. When Jesus hung upon the cross He quoted, among other things, Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He quotes the Old Testament at least 78 times in the Gospels. When Mary Magdalene finds the empty tomb with angels at the head and foot of where the blood of Jesus would have been poured out, we see a living picture of the Mercy Seat and Jesus’ perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system. When Peter, Paul and Stephen presented the case for Christ in the first great sermons of the early church they used the Old Testament as their bedrock upon which to build their arguments. Examples could go on and on and without an understanding of God’s work in the Old Testament, we completely miss out on the significance.
The teachings of God contained in the Old Testament are more than just backdrop for the New Testament as they are the very Word of God recorded for a reason. In the actions of the people throughout the Old Testament period, from Adam to Noah to Abraham, we can see the work of God in their lives and how each of those people followed God or chose to strike out on their own with the consequences that followed. King David and King Saul are two interesting examples. They were both anointed as King of Israel and both sinned greatly and failed spectacularly in that duty, but only David is called a man after God’s own heart in the Bible while Saul goes insane and dies in battle. Why? Well, you should read the Old Testament and find out. (Hint: it’s all about repentance).
While it is understandable that we love to read about the life and times of Jesus and of the early church, if we look at the significance that Jesus and the early church put on the Old Testament we can see that not one bit of the Bible should be neglected in study. The book of Judges may not seem as directly applicable as Corinthians, but every bit of God’s Word is there for a reason and we should not forsake it.