An Incomplete Narrative
Trying to understand the New Testament without the Old Testament is like trying to understand the last four chapters of a book without ever reading the first eight chapters of a book. In the Old Testament, the story that finds its fulfillment in Christ is actually introduced. The Old Testament helps you understand why we need Jesus in the first place: because the world that God intended has been ruined (Genesis 3) by our rebellion against him. The Old Testament helps us understand what something like the sacrifice of Christ even means.
The Village Hero
There was a missionary who went to share the gospel with a tribe in Papua New Guinea. This tribe had never heard anything about the gospel before. They knew nothing about the Bible. The missionary—when he had learned their language and understood their culture—began teaching them the story of the Bible, starting back in Genesis and going all the way through. He knew the Gospels would make no sense without the Old Testament.
The Old Testament helps you understand why we need Jesus in the first place.
As he was going through the story, he would take time at different points to stop and explain the understanding of sacrifice: that a spotless lamb could take the penalty deserved by a guilty sinner and that the blood of that lamb would result in forgiveness for the person who had committed sin.
When the missionary got to the story of Jesus in the Gospels, for a week, Jesus became the village hero. People got up before dawn to come and to listen to the stories of this great teacher, healer, and miracle worker. Near the end of the week, the missionary got to the story of Jesus’s crucifixion and he actually had tribe members from another tribe come in and share this story.
Making the Connection
As they acted it out, the people in the tribe had this look of disbelief. Why would anyone treat Jesus this way? Well, when it came to the point of crucifixion, the person playing the character of Christ had a t-shirt on it with a red sack of dye underneath. So, when the soldier came up and pierced the side of Jesus with the spear, the bag of dye broke and the shirt began to soak as though with blood.
Thirteen contributors explain the shorter Prophetic Books of the Old Testament—Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi—with biblical insight and pastoral wisdom, showing readers the hope that is offered even amidst judgment.
At that point, you could see on the look of some of the people’s faces change as they began to understand that Jesus is the Lamb of God. He’s the one! When the story was finished, and the missionary stood forward and said that it’s in Jesus that your sins can be forgiven, people all across the tribe started to stand up and to celebrate what Jesus had done.
In fact, in this tribe, they showed joy by jumping up and down. At one point, the whole tribe turned into this mosh pit of praise, giving glory to God for what had happened because Jesus was the Lamb of God. They understood Jesus better because they understood the Old Testament.
We need the Old Testament.
- What Does It Mean that God Hated Esau? (Malachi 1) (Eric Ortlund)
- Can Christians Lose Their Salvation? (Hebrews 6) (Dennis E. Johnson)
- Introducing the ESV Expository Commentary Series