Reading the Bible with Jesus in Mind

By Pastor Mark Tanious

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:27

Our fighter verse this week has significant implications for how we read and interpret the Bible. Jesus is claiming that the entire Old Testament (Moses and the Prophets) point to him. That means it’s not just specific prophecies that look ahead to the Messiah, but the warnings, the commands, the stories, and the promises as well.

How Not to Read the Bible

As I said on Sunday, this is crucial to understand or else the Bible will be a crushing burden to us. We will read the Old Testament and find that we can’t possibly live up to the 613 commands. We will be riveted by the stories of Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Esther, and David, but we will feel disappointment that we can never be like them. Or the opposite might happen. We will seek to obey as many commands as we can. But in our zeal to conform our behavior to the Law, we will inevitably begin to judge others who aren’t obeying as well as us. It’s quite a vicious cycle.

But, there’s a better way.

Looking for Jesus

Jesus said himself, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Jesus did obey every one of the 613 commands in the Old Testament. And he wasn’t just like Moses or Esther or David, he was superior to them. This is good news for us.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you are reading Exodus 20 and you come to the Ten Commandments. You read them and you marvel at the holiness of God. You feel the weight of the demands in just these Ten Commandments. Deep down, any honest person has to admit that they could never follow these commandments fully and completely. So, what do you do?

Do we try harder to obey and hope that God will see the intentions of our hearts and accept them as sincere? Do we give up on them and say that’s the Old Testament, we just follow the New Testament? Or do we wallow in self-pity because we know we will never measure up?

None of these responses are what God intends. What we need to understand is that these commands are good because they reflect the holy character of God. The entire Law is good and holy and righteous (Romans 7:12). But, then we need to consider how the Ten Commandments point us to Jesus. The good news is that even though no other Israelite had ever obeyed these commands perfectly, Jesus actually did. He never sinned. He never disobeyed the law. He upheld the entire Law of God perfectly from the heart.

Jesus obeyed the Ten Commandments and yet he died as a criminal. He did this so that he could be our substitute. He took our sin and in exchange gave us his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). This exchange happens as a gift through faith in Jesus Christ.

Resting in Jesus

So, when I read Exodus 20, I can allow the holiness of God to fill my heart with awe. It may even fill me with sorrow that I cannot obey these commandments perfectly. That sorrow may lead to healthy repentance over my sin. But, rather than staying there, I must then look to Jesus. He obeyed the Ten Commandments perfectly so I don’t have to. I remember that God accepts me not based on my obedience, but Jesus’ obedience. I find my security in the unconditional love and grace of God.

And what that does is it allows me to study the Ten Commandments and ask God to give me the grace to go even beyond these commands. I don’t just want to not steal; I want to give generously. I don’t just want to not lie; I want to speak the truth in love. And yet, even as I strive for holiness, I do so from the perspective that my striving is not earning God’s favor. I can rest in the assurance that even when I don’t live up to God’s standard, Jesus has already done that. That fills me with humility and confidence. And that allows me to read the Old Testament without it crushing me with despair or filling me with pride. Because it’s all about Jesus.