It had been three days since Jesus was crucified and buried. Two former followers packed their bags and began the seven-mile trek to their hometown of Emmaus. There was no need to be in Jerusalem any longer. Jesus was dead—and his kingdom wasn’t coming. Shortly after they set out, an unfamiliar person joined them. “Their eyes were kept from recognizing” that it was the resurrected Jesus (Luke 24:16).
The disciples were baffled that this mysterious man hadn’t heard of all that had happened in Jerusalem. As readers, we’re baffled they can’t see whom they’re speaking with! In mercy, Jesus opened the Scriptures and began what must have been the most epic Bible study of all time, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
Let’s imagine what he may have said.
He may have begun with Genesis by showing himself as the second Adam who resisted temptation and obeyed God’s commands (Gen. 2–3; 1 Cor. 15:45–48). He is the promised seed of woman who crushed the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15; 1 John 3:8) and the greater Ark in whom we hide by faith to escape the waters of judgment (Gen. 6–9; Col. 3:3; 1 Pet. 3:20–21). He could have shown how Abraham rejoiced by faith to see his day (John 8:56; Rom. 4), or how he is the promised lion of the tribe of Judah from whom the scepter shall never depart (Gen. 49:10; Rev. 5:5). Or maybe that he is the greater Joseph, beloved of the Father, betrayed by his brothers, exalted among the Gentiles, and the One who gives bread to a famished world.
Then in Exodus he could have shown that he is the greater Moses who leads his people to escape judgment by hiding under the blood of the Passover Lamb on their way to the Promised Land (Ex. 12; John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 3–4; 1 Pet. 1:19). Or how he is the true manna from heaven (John 6:31–35), and the water from the rock that will never leave them thirsty again (John 4:14; 1 Cor. 10:4).
Then he might have turned to Leviticus to show that he is the fulfillment of the entire sacrificial system (John 1:29; Heb. 4–10). He is the unblemished offering that was a pleasing aroma to the Father (1 Pet. 1:19; Heb. 9:14–27). He is the greater scapegoat on whom the sins of the nation were laid (Lev. 16; Heb. 9–10). He is the greater high priest who not only presented an offering but who offered himself for us (Heb. 7–8).
Then he may have taken them to Numbers where he could’ve shown that he was like the bronze snake Moses lifted up in the wilderness, who would bring healing from the serpent’s fatal bite if looked to in faith (Num. 21:4–9; John 3:14–15). Or that he is the star promised to arise from Jacob to crush the head of God’s enemies (Num. 24:17; Rev. 22:16).
Then he could have gone to Deuteronomy to show how he is the prophet like Moses of whom the Father says “this is my beloved Son . . . listen to him” (Deut. 18:15–20; Matt. 18:5; Acts 3:23). Or how he is the true city of refuge to whom sinners flee in their guilt (Num. 35; Heb. 6:18).
Or how he is the greater Joshua who came to lead God’s people through the mighty Jordan into Canaan and receive their long-promised rest (Heb. 4:1–10).
In Judges, we see glimmers of him as the One whom God would raise up to deliver Israel from the oppression of their enemies and to rule over them in righteousness (Isa. 32:1; Luke 1:71).
Then in Ruth, we see how he is the greater kinsman-redeemer who took a Gentile bride to himself so she could share in the wealth of Israel (Matt. 1:5).
In 1 and 2 Samuel we find that Jesus is the greater David who was after the Father’s heart and who courageously slew the greater Goliath of Satan to deliver God’s people from the shame and slavery of their sin (Luke 1:32; John 6:38; 14:31).
Then he may have gone to Kings and Chronicles to show that he is the faithful King who never compromised God’s law, but boldly leads God’s people to honor and obey the Lord in all things (John 18:26–27; Rev. 19:16).
Then he may have spent time showing how he is the greater Ezra, who served as a priest and wept over Jerusalem because of her disobedience and rejection of God (Matt. 23:37; Heb. 5:7).
Or how he is like Nehemiah, who cleansed the temple of God and rebuilt the walls to protect the worship of God, all while refusing to retreat from the work he came to do (Neh. 6:2–3; Matt. 27:42).
He is the greater Esther, who courageously surrendered her life to save God’s people from the deceitful scheme of Satan, the greater Haman. He is also the greater Mordecai who was despised and headed for the gallows, yet was delivered and exalted to the throne, accomplishing salvation for the people of God.
Then he could have shown himself to be the greater Job who suffered, not because of his sin, but because of his righteousness. And though he was misunderstood, God raised him off the ash heap of shame to intercede for those who’d formerly opposed him (Job 42:1–17; Heb. 7:25).
He may have then given a tour of the Psalms, reminding them how in Psalm 2 he was spoken of as the begotten Son before whom all must bow (Phil. 2:4–11; Rev. 5:13–14), and how his resurrection was foreshadowed in Psalm 16 (Acts 2:24–28). Or maybe how Psalm 22 provides a prophetic picture of the innocent One whose hands and feet were pierced by evildoers (Luke 23:33; John 20:25), yet in Psalm 110 he is exalted at the right hand of Father to forever serve as Priest and King (Heb. 5:1–10:39). Or surely from Psalm 118 how he is the stone the builders rejected that would become the cornerstone on whom God would build his church (Matt. 21:42; 1 Pet. 2:4–7).
He could have kept going to Proverbs and shown himself to be the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:18–26), or to Ecclesiastes as the one who gives us abundant life instead of vanity (John 10:10), or to Song of Solomon as the greater bridegroom who showers his bride with steadfast love (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25; Rev. 21:2, 22:17).
Then he could have turned to the prophets and shown in Isaiah that Immanuel was born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23), was indwelt by the Spirit (Isa. 11:2–4; Matt. 3:16), was the anointed root of Jesse (Isa. 11:10; Rom. 15:8–13; Rev. 22:16), and healed the blind, deaf, and lame (Isa. 35:5–6; Matt. 11:2–5). He is the Prince of Peace who rules the everlasting kingdom of righteousness (Isa. 9:6–7; Rev. 11:15), and the Suffering Servant who was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isa. 53:3–9; Matt. 27:27–60; 1 Pet. 2:23).
In Jeremiah and Lamentations, he is the weeping prophet who entered into our sorrow and lamented over sins that exiled us from God, as a way to prove the Lord’s steadfast love and faithfulness (Jer. 13:17; Lam. 3:23; Luke 19:41).
In Ezekiel he is the true Shepherd-King who cares for and feeds the flock who had been neglected and afflicted by abusive shepherds (Ezek. 34:1–24; John 10:1–18).
In Daniel he is the stone who smashes the kingdoms of the world (Dan. 2:34–35; Matt. 21:44), the authoritative Son of Man who will judge all people according to what they’ve done (Dan. 9:7–14; Matt. 26:64), and the Anointed One who was cut off by his own people (Dan. 9:26; Mark 9:9–12).
In Hosea he is the faithful husband who was betrayed by an adulterous bride, yet still loved and pursued her to have her as his own (John 4:1–45; Rom. 9:25–26).
In Joel we see that the promised Day of the Lord’s judgment fell on Jesus on the cross, and that at his ascension he would send the promised Spirit to all who would repent (Joel 2:28–32; Luke 24:49; Acts 2:16–21).
He may have shown how he embodies the message of Amos as he came to rescue the poor and oppressed and bring the justice Israel’s leadership had neglected to render (Luke 4:16–20).
Or how he was foreshadowed in Obadiah as the One who would bring low God’s proud enemies and then lead God’s people up Mount Zion to inherit God’s eternal kingdom (Heb. 12:18–24).
In Jonah we see him as the faithful prophet who won’t run from unworthy sinners but instead was swallowed by the whale of God’s wrath until he came forth alive three days later to call people to repentance. And rather than pouting outside the city in rebellion, his blood was poured outside the city to redeem them (Matt. 12:41; Luke 19:10; Heb. 13:12).
In Micah he was the ruler promised to be born in Bethlehem (“house of bread”) and was himself the bread of life given from heaven to feed a famished world (Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:1).
His work was foretold in Nahum as the One who took on himself the just judgment God’s enemies deserved in order to make them his friends (Rom. 5:8).
In Habakkuk he was the One whom the prophet pointed to when he said the righteous shall live by faith (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38), and the One whom God used evil for good in a way so marvelous that no one would believe even if they were told (Hab. 1:5; Acts 13:41).
In Zephaniah he is the sovereign Lord who establishes the kingdom by taking the judgment the people deserve and restoring to them all that sin has stolen away (Acts 15:12–17; Heb. 12:13).
In Haggai he is alluded to when the prophet promised the glory of God would come to the temple. He is that glory who entered the temple as the greater Zerubbabel (Matt. 21:12–17).
In Zechariah he is the victorious King who comes humbly riding on a donkey. He is the mighty branch who would spread out its limbs and build the Lord’s temple. And he is the One they should look on and see that they had pierced, and it should lead them to mourn and grieve bitterly over him (Zech. 9:9, 11:12–13; Luke 19:35–37; Matt. 26:15).
And then he would have concluded in Malachi, showing that he is the faithful priest who stood up in Lord’s temple and rebuked the people for their lame and empty offerings—and then offered himself as the perfect sacrifice (Matt. 21:12–13; Heb. 9:14–27). His forerunner, John the Baptist, came in the promised spirit of Elijah to point Israel to Jesus as the Sun of Righteousness who rose with healing in his wings (Luke 1:17, 78; Matt. 11:14; John 1:4; 8:12; Rev. 22–24).
As Jesus walked with those disciples on the Emmaus road, he interpreted for them the golden thread of grace that holds every bit of the Old Testament together. He opened their eyes to see that every prophecy, picture, and promise of God finds its “yes” and “amen” in himself (2 Cor. 1:20).
Reading the Old Testament to find Jesus isn’t meant to be like playing “Where’s Waldo?”—looking behind every tree for a cross or every chair for a throne. We do, however, find both explicit teachings and also implicit themes that push us to know that something, or someone, greater must come to fulfill them. Jesus proved this true that day following his resurrection.
Let us be people who read the Old Testament with eyes opened, anticipating the Christ to whom its pages point.
If you’d like to learn more about how to read the Old Testament through the lens of Christ’s fulfillment I commend the following works:
- How Does the Old Testament Point to Jesus? by Bryan Chapell (video)
- How Jesus Fulfills the Law by Don Carson (audio)
- Developing the Skill of Seeing Christ in the Old Testament by Nancy Guthrie (audio)
- Jesus on Every Page by David Murray (book)
- The Unfolding Mystery by Edmund Clowney (book)