You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me . . . (John 5:39)
Did you know that Jesus had a favorite book? Scripture makes it clear that our Lord certainly did have a favorite book— the Old Testament—as evidenced by the fact that He quoted it so many times throughout His earthly ministry.
I must confess that Jesus’ favorite book was my least favorite book early in my Christian life. When my wife, Kim, and I first came to faith in Christ, the church we were attending gave the Daily Walk One Year Bible to anyone who would commit to reading through it each day for the upcoming year. Kim and I accepted the challenge and began our year-long commitment on January 1. We cruised through Genesis. We read through Exodus. When we got into Leviticus, our eyes began to glaze over. I am not sure how we got through Numbers, but I can tell you that we both began to long for the day when we would finally get to “the good stuff” — that is, the New Testament — and that day would not come until October 1st.
Beyond the prophecies about Jesus as the promised Messiah, all we could see in the Old Testament was what seemed like a series of disconnected stories and moralistic messages telling us how to live a life that pleases God, coupled with ominous warnings about what happens to those who fail to do so. Today, by God’s grace, we don’t see it that way anymore. Now Jesus’ favorite book is also our favorite book, and here’s why: The Old Testament is all about Jesus, a fact that Jesus made perfectly clear over and over again. He told the Jewish religious leaders:
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40)
When the truth of these words from Jesus began to sink in, we started slowing down in our reading of the Old Testament to search the Scriptures, looking to find Him there. And if that statement from Jesus was not enough, a few verses later He added the following thunderclap:
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. (John 5:45-46)
Kim and I knew that Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), but we did not understand just how profound these words were from Jesus. Then one day we encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus, just like the two downcast disciples who met Him three days after the crucifixion. There the thunderclap turned into a lightning bolt!
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)
These two men were disciples of Jesus, and they had expected Him to redeem Israel from Roman rule. But after Jesus was arrested, sentenced to death, and crucified, all hope was lost. They remembered that Jesus had spoken of a third-day resurrection, but this was the third day, and they had not seen Jesus alive and well. They did hear reports about the empty tomb from some of the female disciples and even from some of the men, but an empty tomb without a resurrected Jesus did not offer much hope. At the end of their walk to Emmaus, they stopped in the village and had a meal together; it was there that the Lord opened their eyes to recognize Him, and what they said next has been our continuing life experience every time we read the Old Testament:
They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)
Today, Kim and I experience this “holy heartburn” whenever we read the Old Testament, seeing Jesus not just in prophecy, but in promise (beginning with God’s first Gospel proclamation in Genesis 3:15), in pattern, in people, in places . . . in short, on every page of Scripture. Jesus’ favorite book is now our favorite book, and it is my prayer that it will be yours also.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!