"How foolish you are..."

Luke 24:25

3 May 2009

Woodley Baptist Church

Morning service


What would we like Jesus to say to us if we met him?

On Sunday mornings at the moment we're looking at things Jesus said to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. What would you like him to say to you?

Hopefully, we're looking for a Well done, good and faithful servantref. But we mustn't take it for granted: Jesus greeted the disciples in our reading today with a rebuke How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe!ref Which of us wants to hear that?

What I want to look at this morning is how we can avoid being on the receiving end of a rebuke like this when it is our turn to meet him.

We'll be mostly in Luke chapter 24. If you have a Bible handy it will be useful to have it open at that passage.

The whole Bible is about Jesus

Verse 25, How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe!ref

What was it exactly that they had failed to believe? How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!

They had apparently understood some of what the prophets had spoken. Back in verse 21 they had got from somewhere — presumably the prophets — the idea that Jesus was the promised Messiah who would redeem Israel. (If they'd seen the movie the Matrix, they would have identified him as "the One"...)

But Jesus rebukes them because their reading was selective. They had not paid attention to all that the prophets had said about him. They had not taken to heart the fact that the Messiah, the Christ, would first suffer and only then enter his glory.

Why had they missed this crucial understanding? Well, Jesus shows us by what he does next: beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.ref

These disciples had not understood that all of the Old Testament — all of their Scripture — was about Jesus. Not just a few isolated prophecies here and there.

They were bewildered, confused, puzzled and downcast by the events of the previous few days — the death of Jesus and the disappearance of his body — because they had failed to search their scriptures for the explanation.

They should have known better if only they had read their Bibles well. So Jesus rebukes them, How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!ref

Jesus' point is — and this is the one and only point of this sermon — Jesus' point is that the whole of the Old Testament is about him. Not just bits of it: all of it.

He reinforces this message a bit further on from our passage, in verses 44 to 47: He said to them, This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.ref

Jesus specifically names the three sections that the Jews recognised in their Scriptures: the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms or Writings. The whole of the Old Testament is about Jesus. There is no part of the Old Testament that is not ultimately about Jesus.

Now, it is fair to say that nowhere in the Old Testament can we point to a specific verse that actually says The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

So, in what sense do all these parts of the Bible talk about Jesus? When Jesus says "this is what is written", what does he mean?

What he means is that his death and resurrection, and the preaching of the gospel to all nations, is the inevitable conclusion of the Old Testament. He is the shape of the Old Testament. He is the climax of the story. He is the Big Idea without which the Old Testament doesn't make sense.

There's a classic formula to detective stories, isn't there? You know that every detail on the way is important to solving the crime, but you've no idea how they all ultimately fit together to point to the murderer. Then comes the final scene: Miss Marple has gathered the suspects together in the drawing room, and all is explained. The murderer is dramatically named, and everything suddenly makes sense: so that's why Mrs Smith was carrying a vase of petunias! That's why Sir Malcolm was wearing only one cuff-link! You can go back through the book and see how each piece of evidence fits together to point to the solution.

That's how it was for these disciples. They had gathered only some of the evidence: they were, in effect, under the misapprehension that the butler had done it. It is only when Jesus comes and explains all the evidence and how it fits together that the lights go on. Now it makes sense! Now they can see! And, we're told in verse 32, it makes their "hearts burn within them". They move from despair to joy.

Every part of the Old Testament is a piece of evidence pointing the the solution that is Jesus. God creating the world; building and preserving his people; his wrath on our sin; the whole sacrificial system; the law; the tabernacle and temple; the priesthood; the land; the kingship; the exile; the prophets — they all point towards Jesus. They all find their fulfilment and true meaning in Jesus. Everything is brought to completion in Jesus. In themselves, they are just shadows of things to come. Unless we understand this, we don't understand our Bibles, and we don't understand Jesus.

So, the Old Testament is all about Jesus.

Now, a common feeling when we read this passage is, Wouldn't it have been good to have been there when Jesus explained all this in verse 27: beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.ref It's exactly what Pete said to me on Thursday evening when we discussed the service: "You'd kind have liked to have been there...".

Wouldn't you like to have been there? Well, of course it would have been awesome to have been face to face with the risen Lord on the day of his resurrection, but in the end we are not missing out at all. We have that conversation and more. It's the basis of what we call the New Testament.

The New Testament is completely dependent on the Old. More than ten percent of the New Testament is either a quotation or a direct allusion to the Old. I have a little Greek New Testament that prints Old Testament quotations in bold type, and you can see bold type on page after page after page. They are tightly woven together.

What we must understand is that the New Testament is simply the Old Testament explained with the key that is Jesus. The New Testament is like Miss Marple's explanation in the drawing room. It puts all the pieces together and reveals everything. It is the same substance as that conversation on the road to Emmaus. We do not need to worry that we are missing out on anything. The whole Bible, Old and New Testaments is all about Jesus, and together they are all we need to know.


So that's my one point sermon this morning: the whole Bible is about Jesus. The Bible is like a stick of seaside rock. Wherever you cut it — from start to finish, from Genesis to Revelation — wherever you cut it you find Jesus.

What I want to do now is to look at three applications to our lives of this truth.

1. Don't be foolish: read your Bible

First, don't be foolish: read your Bible.

When Jesus meets these disciples, he rebukes them: How foolish you are! If this is how Jesus rebukes his disciples who had only misunderstood their Bibles, imagine what he will say to us who barely even read our Bibles.

If we want to know Jesus, we need to read our Bibles. All of them; every bit. As the disciples learnt, every part of Scripture has something to say about him. If we want a true, complete, undistorted, glorious understanding of Jesus, then we need to read the whole Bible.

If we only read the New Testament, we are like students sitting an English exam who don't bother to read the book, we only read the study notes. We might be able to pass the exam — I got an A in English Literature on this basis — but it robs us of the pleasure, the insight, the whole point of reading in the first place. If we really want to know Jesus in all his glory, we need to read our whole Bibles and put them together.

We so often see Bible reading as a chore, like making sure we get enough fibre in our diets. But it's all about about knowing Jesus. Rightly understood, our Bible reading will make our hearts burn within us.

There are so many ways to get daily Bible input these days: there are plenty of readable translations; you can get it on CD or on your iPod to listen to; you can read it on-line or download it to your iPhone. There are many varieties and formats of reading plans and Bible notes. We may be busy people, but God has blessed us with many helps.

Application 1 — Don't be foolish: read your Bible.

2. Don't be foolish: read your Bible well

Application 2 — Don't be foolish: read your Bible well

It's clear from the story of the Emmaus road that merely reading our Bibles is not sufficient. These disciples will have known their Scriptures well, but they had still missed the point.

Similarly, in John chapter 5, Jesus rebukes the religious people, 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.ref

They were right to diligently read their Bibles; unfortunately, they didn't read them well. When they read their Bibles — our Old Testament — they didn't find Jesus there. When we read our Bibles we need to look for Jesus in all of it.

How does this work out in practise? How are we to find Jesus in all the scriptures?

Well, it's easy enough to give isolated examples from each part that Jesus identifies, the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets.

In the books of the Law, Leviticus 16, we read about the Day of Atonement. It's easy now to see the scapegoat that bears away the sins of the people as being a prefiguring of Jesus' sin-bearing work on the cross.

Or in Psalm 22, we can clearly see the sufferings of Jesus on the cross portrayed, and we gain an understanding of what was happening spiritually on the cross as we think about his cry My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?ref

And of course, in the Prophets, the famous fifty-third chapter of Isaiah which portrays the death of the Suffering Servant, pierced for our transgressions.

Each of these reveals the suffering of the redeemer: the disciples should have understood.

But, it's fair to say that the connection to Jesus is not always immediately obvious to us, is it? When we read, to pick some examples at random, the list of kings defeated by the Israelite army in Joshua 12, or regulations about mildew in Leviticus 13, or the book of Esther, or Job, the connection with Jesus might not immediately spring to our attention.

But, like a jigsaw, every piece has its place; every piece contributes to the final picture, no matter how odd it looks in isolation. Without it, the picture is incomplete.

Every part of the Bible has its place in the big picture of the Bible story, the story of how God saves his people, climaxing in the death of his Son. It's all one story, and as we put each part into its place, we can begin to see how it all reveals something of Jesus to us. We need to learn how to put together the big picture, and Jesus is the picture on the box.

Now, there are dangers of being people who only read the Bible but don't seek to find Jesus in all of it. The key dangers are legalism and moralism. And moralism is a particular hazard when it comes to teaching the Bible to our children.

So often in teaching the Old Testament to little ones, we go for the easy moralistic angle: be good like King David and God will be pleased with you; be bad like King Saul and God will be cross with you. Obey your parents and God will be happy; be a pesky little tick and God will be sad.

Where's Jesus in this? Where is grace? Where's the gospel? Without tying it all to Jesus we bring our children up on moralism: be good and God will be pleased with you. That's not the gospel! Some of you are thinking now, isn't it?

A dose of moralism is the most foolish thing we can give our children, because, like childhood immunisations, a little dose of moralism when they are young can make them immune to the gospel for life.

Unfortunately, the most children's Bibles don't really help us with this. But I do want to recommend one notable exception.

The Jesus Storybook Bible. This is really super and beautifully illustrated. An extract from the blurb: From Noah to Moses to King David, every story whispers his name. Jesus is like the missing piece in a puzzle — the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together. And it's true, every story is tied beautifully and naturally to Jesus. On the back it says age range 4-8, and I have a seven year old who says, and I quote, "It's the best book in the world!" But I don't think there is a grown-up here who wouldn't benefit from reading it themselves, or at least finding a small child and reading it to them. The Jesus Storybook Bible: every story whispers his name.

While we are on the subject of books... I've got a couple more recommendations to help you see Jesus in all of the Scriptures and avoid being foolish.

God's Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts is a fairly easy read. It gives an very helpful overview of the different parts of the Bible and how they fit together around Jesus. From the blurb: He points us to the Bible's supreme subject, Jesus Christ, and the salvation God offers through him.

And for a more substantial read, Alec Motyer's Look to the Rock gives a very thorough Old Testament background to our understanding of Christ. Once again, from the blurb, To neglect the Old Testament, the author maintains, is to have an impoverished view of the glory of Christ.

If you want the details come and see me at the end. And perhaps, with Mike's permission, we can put them in Radar magazine.

3. Don't be slow of heart

So, application 1, don't be foolish: read your Bible. Application 2, don't be foolish, read your Bible well. Finally, Application 3, don't be slow of heart.

Why does Jesus say to them How slow of heart you are to believe all that the prophets have spoken?

Well, we must never forget that Bible reading is not only head work, but heart work as well. In Bible language, your heart is the centre of your being. It is the core of your emotions and your will and your motivation. It is what drives your life. And the Bible calls us to believe in Jesus with our hearts, not only our heads: Romans 10:9, if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified.ref

Our Bible reading must affect our hearts. The message of Jesus must sink down and change the directions of our lives.

These disciples had not believed in their hearts that Jesus must suffer and die before entering his glory. They had not embraced and owned the painful way that God was working.

When we read our Bibles, we should pray that God would give us not only light bulbs going on in our brains, but hearts that burn within us, to live and obey his truth. Then we will truly know Jesus in all his glory.


Let's pray

Father, please keep us from foolishness. Please help us to read your word and read it well. We long to know Jesus better; we long to know him as he is. Give us, gracious Father, from all of your word a true, complete and glorious picture of your Son. Father, forgive us for treating your word so lightly.

And Father, please make our hearts quick to believe. By your Holy Spirit may our hearts burn within us as we read your word. Please change our lives, and make us like Jesus. In his glorious name, Amen.