The Questions of Jesus: But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?
Midweek in the Third Sunday in Lent
March 7, 2018
Children intuitively know how to learn. They ask. Asking questions shouldn’t be frowned on, it should be encouraged. A person once told me the only dumb question is the one that is not asked. We learn by seeking. If we don’t understand something we should ask. We shouldn’t be content with our ignorance. So let us learn from children and keep asking.
Of course, one of the ways God has taught us what He wants us to know is by giving us His written Word. The Bible is a collection of books in two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. To many unbelievers it’s all the same. It’s just a bunch of old books. But to many Christians, it has been a puzzle as to how these two parts fit together and even if the one is no longer applicable. Even the word old in Old Testament might imply that it’s no longer important.
One of the best things we can do to address this challenge is to just get to it and read it. Read it. Ask questions. Why does such and such a book in the Old Testament say what it does? What is the purpose of, for example, Hosea prophesying as he does? Or David being king? Or Abraham being promised to be the father of many nations? We could ask hundreds upon hundreds of questions about the Old Testament in order to try to understand what God is teaching us in giving us this part of His Holy Scriptures. And we ought to keep asking and reading and studying.
At the same time, there are many people who do just this, but for a different reason. They do it because they like to learn. They study the Bible as literature. Or as history. Or perhaps even as fairy tales. But they aren’t seeking to learn the Bible for what it truly is, God’s written word that speaks the message of eternal salvation. To many people this is a fantasy we Christians hold to, they don’t believe it is true at all. Whatever people may think of the Bible, we who believe it is the actual Word of God and His message to us people for salvation, we are the ones who most ought to read it and study it and learn it.
The question of the importance of the Old Testament is answered first by the Old Testament itself. It is God’s Word, therefore it is of utmost importance on that count alone. It is also answered by the New Testament, as we see that Jesus and the apostles believed the Old Testament was the Word of God and so they constantly were interpreting and showing how the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament. There are hundreds upon hundreds of ways this is shown in the New Testament.
For us this evening we will look at one. It is in the form of a question and spoken by our Lord Himself. Since we are learning in this Lenten season from our Lord by meditating on questions He asked in His Passion, that is, His suffering and death, this one shows us that the Bible is not just a book. It is a book written by humans but inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is a book that shows the promise of the Savior and then shows us that very Savior Himself. It is a book that teaches us but then also shows that learning is not the main thing; the main thing is that we are shown that we are sinners and need salvation.
This brings us to Jesus’ question. He asks it in the Garden of Gethsemane where He is praying. He prays according to His Father’s will. If it be Your will, let this cup pass from Me. But if not, then let Your will be done. He will be content with the will of His Father to endure the cup of suffering. Guess what the answer was? The Father’s will was for His Son to suffer for the sin of the world. Thus, when Judas came with soldiers to arrest Jesus He did not resist.
Peter, however, he was going to fight for his Lord! He drew his sword and hacked away, taking off an ear of the high priest’s servant’s ear. If this were a story told from the world’s point of view, Jesus would have been gratified that one of His disciples was so faithful and courageous to fight for Him. But this is the story of salvation, where Jesus has become a man in order to save people from their sins.
He is angry with Peter. “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” No, Jesus is not pleased. He will not tolerate those who fight against the will of His heavenly Father. If you seek to fight your way past the will of God you will die in your fight. Not to mention the fact that if this were indeed the way God were to bring about salvation, He had a much more advanced and powerful army at His disposal than eleven guys He had been teaching for three years to be apostles. Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?
A legion during the time of Caesar Augustus numbered about 6,000 soldiers. So twelve times 6,000, that’s 72,000. And Jesus said His Father would send even more than that. The sheer number is staggering. On top of that, however, is the sheer terror of angels. We usually think of them as benign creatures. But you don’t want to mess around with angels. Just take a look at the angels guarding the throne of God in Isaiah 6 or the archangels in the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation at war with Satan. Angels are fierce and fight evil at the bidding of God. Peter may have intended good but he was not seeing things as his Lord was.
The will of God the Father was not to bring down His angels to wipe people out who stood in His way. It was to send His Son to the cross. Jesus emphasizes this with this question: But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so? He asked this when there was not yet the written New Testament. His question of the fulfilling of the Scriptures referred to the Old Testament. By His question Jesus is showing us the ultimate value of the Old Testament. It proclaims to us Christ and Him crucified. Jesus would humbly go to the cross because that is what the Old Testament had prophesied would be the way God would bring about salvation for a fallen world.
Because of this we should go back to the Old Testament and look for Him all over the place. We should be looking for the many ways the Old Testament points us to God’s Son and His suffering and death and resurrection. The Old Testament prophesies that He would be born, that He would be without sin, and that He alone would secure salvation for sinners. The New Testament gives the actual details of it. It is all in the person of this man who was born of the Virgin and who made His way to the Garden of Gethsemane where His suffering and death would begin to unfold.
The authors of the New Testament, the apostles, were inspired by the Holy Spirit, as were the authors of the Old Testament, the prophets. Jesus Himself, well, He is Himself the Author of His Holy Word. And He Himself knew that all Scriptures were centered in Him, and particularly, in His suffering, death, and resurrection. Peter could not prevent it, even if he tried. And, well, he did try. But Jesus put a quick end to that sort of foolishness. He came to go to the cross, as was prophesied in the Scriptures. Jesus fulfilled those Scriptures. But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?
And what do we learn from this? That we aren’t just learning information, or history, or other good, important things. We are being shown who God is in the person of Jesus and His salvation of us in His Son’s suffering, death, and resurrection. Amen.