Many are familiar with the series of Where’s Waldo? books that have fascinated children since the first publication appeared in 1987. The books are made up of a series of double-page spread illustrations picturing a huge crowd of people engaged in various activities at a specific location. The reader is challenged to find Waldo somewhere in the crowd. He is distinguished by his red-and-white-striped shirt, bobble hat, and black-rimmed glasses that highlight his white eyes.
Fortunately, finding Jesus in Scripture is not a matter of picking him out from a vast surrounding throng. He is the focal point of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. Numerous Old Testament prophecies were used to highlight this truth in the first century, and they serve the same purpose today. Those who sincerely ask, “Where’s Jesus?” will find multiple-choice answers!
The Testimony of Scripture
One wonders what it was like for the two men on the road to Emmaus to hear Jesus begin with Moses and all the Prophets and explain “what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). That night, in the presence of those disciples who had gathered in Jerusalem, Jesus “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” and grasp everything written about him “in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (vv. 44, 45). Those three categories were the three groups of books into which the Hebrew canon, the “Bible” Jesus used, were divided. The books included in this canon were the same 39 books in our Old Testament; they were simply arranged differently.
How long did each of those teaching sessions last? What passages did Jesus cover and discuss? Regardless, what a lesson on prophecy and biblical interpretation those occasions would have been! Not only did Jesus come back to life that day, the Scriptures came to life under the instruction of the Master Teacher. We can only speculate what Scriptures Jesus would have used, but the aforementioned threefold division provides us with an outline to use in addressing our topic.
The Law of Moses
The Law includes the first five books of the Old Testament, also known as the Pentateuch or the Torah. Within the first book in this group, Genesis, we find the first messianic glimpse: the promise of the woman’s (Eve’s) offspring who will crush the head of the serpent, Satan (Genesis 3:15). Also included in this book is the record of the covenant that God established with Abraham, promising that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (12:3). This promise amounted to an announcement of the gospel, according to Paul (Galatians 3:8).
Within the Law of Moses itself are several messianic portraits. A number may be seen in the Old Testament sacrificial system, which was a “shadow of the good things that are coming” under the New Covenant (Hebrews 10:1). The Book of Hebrews provides several links between the two covenants (4:8-11; 5:1-10; 7:11-28; 8:7-13; 9:11-15, 23-28; 10:11-18; 13:11-13). Perhaps Jesus, when he expounded on the prophecies he had come to fulfill, went back to John the Baptist’s description of him as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). That Lamb had accomplished exactly what John said he would. In Deuteronomy 18:15 there is also Moses’ promise of a special prophet. Some speculated whether John was that prophet (John 1:19-21); perhaps Jesus declared to those in Jerusalem that he was that prophet, as Peter would later affirm (Acts 3:22-24).
In the Hebrew canon of Scripture, the prophets included two groups of books. The Former Prophets were comprised of Joshua through 2 Kings (excluding Ruth, which was placed in the third group known as the Writings), while the Latter Prophets included the books we normally consider as prophetic books (except for Lamentations and Daniel which also were part of the Writings). In citing the Former Prophets, Jesus could well have mentioned the special covenant God made with David, which included the promise of a house, kingdom, and throne that would endure forever (2 Samuel 7:16). The New Testament makes clear the fulfillment of this promise in Jesus, a descendant of David (Luke 1:30-33; Acts 2:29-32). The Latter Prophets contain numerous descriptions of the Messiah; among them are two that are part of the Christmas message (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22, 23 and Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:3-6).
Since the Psalms made up the first book in the section of the Hebrew canon known as the Writings, it was often used to designate that entire section. It was fitting that Jesus refer to the Psalms since there are several prophecies of him within that book. In fact, the New Testament quotes from Psalms more than from any other Old Testament book. When Jesus addressed the group in Jerusalem, he could well have quoted from Psalm 22, in which one finds a series of details from the crucifixion of Jesus including the very words he spoke from the cross (22:1) and those spoken by his enemies (22:7, 8; see also verses 16 and 18 and verse 22, cited in Hebrews 2:11, 12). The “stone” rejected by the “builders” (the political and religious leaders) had indeed become the cornerstone, a “marvelous” act of a sovereign God (Psalm 118:22, 23; Matthew 21:42). The two men on the road to Emmaus had chided Jesus for not knowing what was happening over the last few days, but they were the ones whose lack of knowledge became apparent (Luke 24:18, 25, 26)!
Still With Us
Though we cannot experience life with Jesus as those early disciples did, we do not have to consider ourselves “shortchanged.” We have been given the completed and inspired New Testament, in which we find a host of prophecies cited (as we have already seen) as fulfilled in Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and church. The church serves as the body of Christ, carrying out the head’s final marching orders as given in the Great Commission. Jesus, who was Emmanuel (“God with us”) at his first coming, continues to be with his people “to the very end of the age” as they do so (Matthew 28:18-20). He desires that his church join him in all that he has achieved and in all that his fulfillment of prophecy has brought about in God’s plan to redeem lost humanity. Thus Paul declares that “no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Paul then adds that God has given to Christians “his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (v. 22). There are more promises to be fulfilled (such as those contained within the Book of Revelation), more “Yeses” to be affirmed, and more “Amens” to be spoken as more individuals turn to Jesus as Lord and Savior.
To return to the “Where’s Jesus?” illustration used earlier, the question has a twofold answer: he is found throughout Scripture, and he is found among his faithful people who serve as his ambassadors to a broken world to speak on his behalf (2 Corinthians 5:20) and represent the kingdom “not of this world” (John 18:36). We have been placed among the masses of humanity as salt and light, so that the Christ in all of Scripture may become all in all to more and more.
Doug Redford serves as minister with Highview Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.