It’s one of the classic passages we go to every Easter, but it’s not just an Easter story. Two disciples are walking home, steeply downhill and deeply despondent, and as they go they are trying to make sense of all that has happened in the past few days. Their beloved teacher—the one they thought could put everything right—had been put to a most horrible death on Friday. Now it was Sunday, the first day of the new week and it was time to go home and gather up the tattered loose ends of their lives.
We’ve all been there, shattered dreams and confusion in the wake of an unexpected tragedy. But they meet a stranger who challenges and changes them. He was anonymous to them, he was simply a traveller on the road. And before they can cotton on to his real identity, he sets their thinking straight about whom their teacher was and what his death would mean.
What would I have done to open their eyes and explain the great mystery of the Cross and the Tomb? I think my first impulse would be to throw back my cloak, spread my arms out wide and shout: “It’s me! Look, I’m fine!” Thankfully, it wasn’t me on that road.
Instead, Jesus spoke to them in a way that could make sense out of everything they had witnessed. He spoke to them words of hope and insight and understanding. He spoke to them from the Old Testament: “And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:27). That is carefully chosen wording. The Hebrew Bible – what we call the Old Testament – is traditionally comprised of three sections; the Torah (written by Moses), the Prophets, and the Writings. Jesus explained His own ministry by cross-referencing back to all three sections. His New Testament ministry only makes complete sense if you look at it through the prism of the Old Testament.
Once the two disciples discovered just who their mysterious companion had been, they rushed back up to Jerusalem and told the others. How different might our New Testament have been without that conversation on the road! Matthew alone records some fourteen major aspects of Jesus’ life on earth that explicitly fulfil Old Testament prophecies. In addition to these he brings in at least another fifty OT allusions and quotations to make his case as he tells his Gospel. Paul explains that the death and resurrection of Christ were all “according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), when the only Scriptures he could mean at that early date would be the Hebrew Scriptures. Peter’s great sermon in Acts 2 is thoroughly founded on the Old Testament, as is Stephen’s magnificent speech in Acts 7.
It seems that whenever there was the need to explain or proclaim Jesus Christ in the New Testament, the Old Testament was never far from anyone’s thinking. I encourage you to venture into the wonderful realm of “Moses and all the Prophets and all the Writings.” If it was good enough for Jesus to explain Himself by, it has to be worth a look!