Saturday, May 14, 2016

Does Jesus See Himself in the Old Testament? Part VI

We will digress a bit from our study on this posting. We are exploring the idea that Jesus is named in the Old Testament when the Hebrew word yeshuwa'h (salvation) is used, for that is what His name means: "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, ["the LORD saves"] because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

How did Jesus see Himself in light of the Old Testament? The Tanakh (the Jewish Scriptures) is the only reference He and His listeners had.

Let's go to Matthew 5:17-18: “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. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."

Jesus sees the Law as needing fulfillment, which would imply that it is awaiting something deeper, something that will complete it. Strong's defines "fulfill" as "to become" and "come to pass." This would imply that the Law is incomplete, that it was not an end in itself but a means. Jesus is effectively defining Himself as the end. What are the Law's means? To show us our utter need for a Savior, for no one can keep all of the Law all of the time: "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear." (Is. 59:2)

In Isaiah 53:5-6, we read: "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him."

As Jesus is speaking in Matthew 5, He has Isaiah as one of many reference points. In fact, He inaugurated His ministry with the reading of Isaiah in His local synagogue. He knows all too well of "The Suffering Servant" mentioned in Isaiah, and may be implying that His suffering and final offering for sin is what the Law longs for and what His Father longs for. He is the end-game of the Law. 

Jesus speaks of His authority, for the Law is the authority to His contemporaries. So, if He breaks the Law, which He does by healing a man on the Sabbath (thus working on the Sabbath) and encouraging him to carry the mat he used to lie upon (which was also working) then what is the valid basis for His ministry? If not the Law, then what? He responds in John 5:16-19:

"So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, 'My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.' For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. Jesus gave them this answer: 'Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.'"

Jesus predicates His authority on what His Father is doing, which is the Law of Love over the letter of the Law.  The Jewish leaders had authority to point out transgressions of the Law, but Jesus possessed a higher authority.  Both where given by God, but Jesus is coming to fulfill the Law and put into operation a higher one:  the Law written on newly born-again hearts.

A little later, Jesus says, “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think 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: 36-39)

So, Jesus is arguing that His authority is derived from the very Scriptures that the Jewish leaders are using to condemn Him and His ministry. He is saying that the Scriptures are about Him. He then invokes the very leader that the Jewish people so revered: “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5:45-7)

Jesus saw Himself as the One to Whom the Law pointed: a Mediator like Moses, a High Priest like Aaron and the Passover Lamb of the Exodus.

So, in essence, the Law is fulfilled in Jesus.  He is our Mediator Who will bring a new law down from Calvary's mountain: the Law of Love, written on believers' heart and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

He is our High Priest, Who offered Himself once and for all and satisfied the Law's requirement for atonement.

Finally, He is our Lamb: His blood, over our doorpost, will cause the Angel of Death (who flies out of our sin) to pass over us as we sit at the feast of eternal life.

Did Jesus see Himself in the Old Testament? Yes, and resoundingly so. He staked His life on it.


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