I had the privilege of knowing an godly elderly couple whom I visited on a regular basis. The old man’s health failed and soon after that he died. I buried him.
Some time after this, Heila’s grandmother was admitted into a nursing home, where she shared a room with someone else. This person just happened to be the wife of the old fellow I had buried. Alzheimer’s had set in and every time we went to visit Grandma, we spend some time with this lady too. Her memory had regressed to the point that she, with a smile and intensive eyes stared at me as if she could remember me, but the more I told her my name, the more she was confused. She knew, but she didn’t know. It left her frustrated and out of reach of the conversation.
Are some Christians not the same when it comes to the Person of Christ? – they know, but they don’t. There are days when some Sunday School lesson is bright in the mind, but there is sometimes not much knowledge more recall, let alone transfer. I had an old man in a congregation who one day asked me if I know what he suspected might be true. He asked, “I pretty sure there is some place in the Bible where all the laws are listed one after the other, do you know if this is true?” I replied, “You’re referring to the Ten Commandments?” You must have seen the smile on his face! I am still wondering if he had a true, authentic relationship with the risen Saviour.
On the way to Emmaus
The two disciples we meet on the way to Emmaus, were saddened: they had followed Jesus, the knew He was a prophet powerful in word and deed, they had hoped that He would be the One who was going to redeem Israel. They also knew that He had been handed over to be crucified after being sentenced do death, and He had been buried three days before. This was Sunday afternoon, and they had heard the news that his body is not in the grave anymore – the women came with the message, and some of the other disciples went to the tomb and verified that fact.
All these things they told Jesus when He suddenly appeared to them as if He was a traveller on his home back from the Passover Feast in Jerusalem. You cannot help to trace something in their conversation with Jesus that just didn’t add up. They were confused and puzzled. They saw how powerful as prophet Christ was, they could see all the signs of the Messiah in Him, they had hope, but they could not find a solution to connect the dotted lines.
How is it with you, my dear friend? Knowledge is something wonderful, because it brings us to the truth. Knowledge of the Scriptures is essential to understand who the Christ was, and who He is.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6, ESV)
How different from what the apostle Paul describes in Romans:
“I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14, ESV)
Or shall we take the people of Berea, who had heard what Pul and Silas were preaching, and then did this:
As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:10–11, NIV)
I am afraid, the church of today has become spiritually illiterate. Many worship services today are all about the happenings: the music, the drama, the human interaction, the friendliness, and self-discovery. Iain H. Murray in his book “Evangelicalism Divided” writes:
“Surveying the current evangelical scene we see ‘the disturbing legacy of the the 60’s and 70’s. A generation brought up on guitars, choruses and home group discussions. Educated, not to use words with precision because the image is dominant, not the word. Equipped not to handle doctrine but rather to ‘share’. A compassionate, caring generation, suspicious of definition and labels, uneasy at, and sometimes incapable of, being asked to wrestle with sustained didactic expositions of theology. Excellent when it comes to providing religious music, drama and art. Not so good when asked to preach and teach the Faith.”
I am for not moment saying that friendliness, mutual Christian love or music are not important; but what I am concerned about is the Scriptures. Are we still concerned about knowledge? In a certain sense we have become Alzheimer Christians: we know, but we don’t; we remember, but we don’t really know what; we have heard the message, but we don’t know how it all points to Christ, and how it all has its fulfilment in Him.
The Scriptures always pointed to Christ
When the two disciples that late afternoon found themselves frustrated and disappointed, our Lord stepped in and helped them to connect the dots.
“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25, ESV)
No messing with words here: if we do not believe the words spoken by the prophets, we are foolish. Acceptance of what the prophets said should have led the disciples to believe the reports of the women at the tomb. The message of the women was nothing new, it was a continuation and fulfilment of that very message. Our verse says:
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27, ESV)
Opening up the Scriptures is opening up the message of Christ. These disciples were almost like modern people in their skepticism. Only the presence of the raised Jesus would convince them of what happened. The irony of what happened with them is that they were caught up in the middle of what they desired and what the others had experienced, only they had no knowledge to bolster their unbelief.
The apostles later understood this very clearly when they started to proclaim the message of Christ. Peter preached on Pentecost day:
And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. (Acts 3:17–18, ESV)
“To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”” (Acts 26:22–23, ESV)
Yes, the Old Testament is all about Christ. That is the lesson of our Lord to the disciples that Sunday afternoon, and even that night when He appeared to them in the upper room. If there was one Sunday school lesson I would have loved to attend, it would have been that one. Just imagine the Lord Himself taking you through the Scriptures and explaining how it pointed to Him and how it was fulfilled in Him! An hour would have been too short! “Please, just don’t stop; I want to know more!”
When He then later at their table, took the bread to break it, something clicked: they understood now that they One who explained all to them, is the One who fulfilled it all. Perhaps they saw the marks of the nails in his hands; perhaps they understood that He who broke the break and gave thanks to the Father, as He did at the Last Supper, is the Word made flesh. He is not dead. He is alive as the prophets foretold.
When Jesus disappeared out of their midst, they were not in the least surprised. He is God. That’s what God can do. Their hearts were burning within them, they said. Was this some sort of warm sentimental feeling that one gets when you have a very good moment you would love to remember for the rest of your life? I think it was far more than this: the burning heart is the result of the light of understanding brought about by the revelation that the Scripture is God’s Self-revelation fulfilled in the Person the Saviour. Their hearts were set alight by the bright light of knowledge and understanding the truth that sets you free. David writes in Psalm 119:130
“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130, ESV)
O, my dear brother and sister, that we may see that light. We are a crippled church because we have a lack of knowledge; we are scripturally underdeveloped like bonsai pot plants, because we do not know. Add to this the disaster of modern-day Christianity to look at the Old Testament as a book of lesser value.
The Scriptures are fulfilled in Christ
We surely do not have time to go though all the references of Christ in the Old Testament. We can however look at a few main points.
We have to start right at the beginning when Adam and Eve sinned against God and dragged all of creation into their misery. They were driven from the direct presence of God in paradise, but God sent them with a promise:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”(Genesis 3:15, ESV)
All through history the seed of Adam and Eve tried to bruise the head of the serpent, but all attempts, however significant at the time in the development of God’s plan with his people, could not provide the deadly blow. Yes, there were people like Joshua, Caleb, Samson, the other judges, and David with other kings too, but it was on the cross of Calvary where the Devil had the deadly blow. The wound to Jesus ‘heel’ would not be ultimately fatal, (in terms of hinting that Jesus would rise again) whereas the blow to Satan would indeed destroy him in that mankind would have a ready remedy for sin through the cross and resurrection of Christ.
The Sacrificial system fulfilled
Animals: If their is one thing we as the people of God who live this side of the cross of Christ would not fully comprehend, it would the amount of animals which died, and how much blood shed to bring about forgiveness of sins. Everyone of those animals, as we read in Hebrews, and every drop of blood shed, could not bring a complete redemption of sin – it had to be repeated over and over, year after year. As the animals suffered, so the Christ suffered as He became the ultimate sacrifice: He paid with his own life, as He was the complete, unblemished Lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world. Like the Lamb of Passover, He became the redemption of his people. The difference: His sacrifice was a once and for all sacrifice. It bought redemption and provided righteousness.
The utensils and altar of the sacrifice: There were the golden, silver and bronze utensils which were made and used precisely according to God’s directions. They had to be purified by the blood of the animals to be acceptable. They had to be used precisely as directed. They could only be used by people specially ordained for their use. Christ came to put an end to it. Today we can worship here, freely, without fear that we might offend the holiness of God if we do not use all these things. We just humbly pray and trust in the righteousness of our Saviour.
The priests of the sacrifice: Once a year the High Priest would enter the most holy of the temple to, first of all, pray for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He was sinful, and could only do this once in a lifetime; the people were sinful and had to do it all the time. The corruption of the priests, their open sins and rebellion just screamed out the fact that it is not perfect – it called for perfection and an end to human intervention. Christ showed that to his disciples that night when He broke the bread: His body is the New Covenant in his blood. It is all over with the sacrificial system. There is no need for a temple, an altar, an priest or an animal. The price is paid.
The kingdom of David is established
The office of prophet is fulfilled
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 27 March 2016