Thursday, November 13, 2008

The "Jesus Hermeneutic": Exhibit A

John 5 seems to pretty clearly lay out that the Scriptures are about Jesus. Jesus encounters men who diligently study the Word, but their hermeneutic was off. They didn't see Jesus in the Text and therefore they actually doubted Moses, for Jesus was his intention. This text alone should cause us to note that any hermeneutic that doesn't see Christ as the ultimate intention is a faulty hermeneutic. However, some will ask:

Is it wise to adjust the entire way you read the Bible from just one text? Couldn't you be missing the mark if one small dialogue reshapes the way you read the rest of the Book?

My answers would be: a) clear passages are supposed to define more difficult passages, and they don't get much clearer than this one, b) oh, we're just getting started...there is plenty more proof from Jesus. Getting ahead of ourselves, let me just state that this hermeneutic is employed by the New Testament authors (we'll let that marinate for a few posts), but Jesus also exhibited this hermeneutic regularly.

Before we get to "Exhibit A" allow me to offer some evidence from the Book of John. (I"ll have to ask The Esquire if there is such a thing as "pre-exhibit evidence.")

Jesus states that Moses and the serpent pointed to Him (John 3:13-14).

Jesus states that the manna pointed to Him (John 6:26-58).

Jesus states that living waters points to Him (John 7:38).

Jesus states that Psalm 41:9 was about Him (John 13:18).

Jesus states that Psalm 35:19; 69:4 is about Him (John 15:25).

Now, consider these references are only from John and do not take into account clear Old Testament titles Jesus applied to Himself (Son of Man, Good Shepherd, Light, I AM, Resurrection and Life, the Vine) nor is it counting the Scriptures John reads in light of Jesus throughout the book of John. In fact, many of these references can slip right by us. But just because we could easily miss them does not mean they aren't profound. Don't forget, the teachers of the Law were missing Jesus in the Old Testament and He found that pretty condemning.

Perhaps the reason we don't see Christ often enough in the Old Testament is because we don't see Him enough in the New Testament too. (But I digress.)

So let's take a look at "Exhibit A":

Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.--Luke 24:44-47

Wouldn't it be great if Jesus would just "open our minds to understand the Scriptures? Imagine sitting in the "Jesus Rabbinic School" where He taught you how to read the Bible. Wouldn't that be wonderful? Well, guess what? He did! Reread the above text and understand this is your opportunity too. You can allow Jesus to open your mind and sit under His teaching on hermeneutics!

Some things to note:

    1. This is not simply post-resurrection revelation.
Just to get all the overly chronologized expressions out of the way, this is not something Jesus began to teach after the resurrection. This is not new teaching to the disciples. He's been telling them "while I was still with you." The only difference now is that it is not going in one ear and out the other. Jesus is going to open their minds so they can comprehend what He's been telling them all along.

    2. "The Scriptures" are the Old Testament.
Kind of a "duh thing" here, but it is important to remember that Jesus is referring to the Old Testament when when it says Scriptures. This is further confirmed by stating Law of Moses, and the Prophets and the Psalms. This was understood to be another way of stating "the whole OT."

    3. Are written about Me.
Just a point of note, He does not state, "All things which were written should now be understood as applying to Me." He states, "all things which are written about Me." This means He is not teaching us a new hermeneutic, but is teaching us authorial intent. "Are written" is such a great construction (as opposed to "Was written"). It states that it was written about Him, but proper application is still about Him. This is not Jesus handing out secret decoder rings for the Old Testament. This is Jesus removing a veil so they can see accurately what the Text has always said.

    4. The Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day.
Jesus doesn't care what Second Temple Period Rabbis may think about the Messiah, He explains to His disciples that the Old Testament teaches that the Messiah must die and rise three days later. The historical truths of what must happen were recorded in the Old Testament. This is not revisionist history. This is prophecy in its true form. The Old Testament declared long before that these things must take place.

    5. Repentance for forgiveness of sins...
The Old Testament does not merely proclaim events that will happen, it also tells us why. From the Old Testament we can learn that Jesus will lay down His life for the sake of our sins and that this can only be received through repentance and faith. We see not only the historic details of the gospel, but also how these details can be appropriated to our lives. Repentance and faith for the forgiveness of sins is not a New Testament concept. It is not a reworking of the text. It is what the Old Testament declared.

    6. Proclaimed in His name to all the nations.
The message of salvation cannot be segregated from the person of Christ. They are to proclaim "in His name." This also reminds us that "Gentile Evangelism" or the commission of the Church is not adaptation or Jesus adjusting the plan. This is Jesus laying out that the Old Testament has prophesied to the coming of the Holy Spirit to allow men to speak in the name of Jesus for the sake of proclaiming His name among the nations. Sadly, the church often appeals to world mission from a New Testament perspective only, when Jesus is teaching that any New Testament text about reaching the nations is simply application of what the Old Testament has already stated!

Is that the way your read the Old Testament? If not, you have a different hermeneutic than Jesus. You also have a different hermeneutic than the one He taught. You're not missing a "cool new way to read the Bible," you are missing the true, original way the Bible was meant to be read.

Seeing that the entire Bible is about Jesus is not merely looking for occasional obscure prophetic points about Jesus. Reading the Bible through a Jesus Hermeneutic means you see the gospel story, the message of Jesus fulfilling our redemption through His work on the cross on our behalf and our joyful participation in proclaiming that message around the world as on the pages of the Old Testament.

[Thinking: Sure, He can do that because He is Jesus. If you were the perfect, holy Son of God, you could read the Bible without any fear of making an error too. Jesus was alive when the original authors were writing the document. But Jesus doesn't mean for others to employ that hermeneutic, right? I mean, it's one thing for Jesus to explain the original meaning of some passages, but it's not like He set others loose to do the same thing. Did He?

I'm glad you asked. That's where we're headed next.]


David Mohler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Mohler said...

This is precisely what has opened my eyes to what is genuine "fellowship" among believers and what is not. I find it harder and harder to "fellowship" with professing Christians who do not see Christ throughout all of scripture, and easier and easier to talk with non-Christians about Jesus Christ because I see Christ more and more in every passage! I cannot help, and am not bothered by, those who think this is not possible.

Instead of piddling in the puddle of ineffective "visions" (God's vision for coffee shops last year, God’s vision for full-time church planters last week, God's vision for humanitarian cooperation today, and who knows what God's vision will be tomorrow), I am thrilled that the Scripture is a constant, unchanging, ever-relevant and powerful witness of Christ and His fulfilling sacrifice.

I am looking at a painting here in my office of Jesus with the two men on the road to Emmaus, and recall Luke 24:27 which is equally compelling that all Scripture is about Him: "Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures."

May our own hearts burn to see Scriptures opened to us in light of Christ Himself (Luke 24:32)!

danny2 said...