Two of Jesus’ disciples were walking along the road to Emmaus on the first resurrection Sunday, and they were distraught: “Jesus of Nazareth who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God” was dead (ESV, Luke 24:19). They “had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (v. 21), but now he was dead. Their grief touches us even across the years.
A stranger appears and walks besides them and berates them by saying, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken!” (Luke 25:26). And then Luke describes what the stranger, who was Jesus, said to them, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Jesus on the Emmaus road did not add to Scripture. He did not give them a new revelation like what we have from John in the book of Revelation, but rather he explained or interpreted the Scriptures to prove that the Old Testament requires that it be “necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory” (v. 26).
The disciples’ “hearts burn within” them as he “opened up…the Scripture” (v. 32), but the stranger made no claim to authority. All that he did was interpret the existing Bible for them to convince them that the Old Testament taught the suffering, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. Because Jesus is not arguing from authority or adding to the Scriptures, Jesus’ interpretation is repeatable by others. The disciples and modern readers of the Bible can return to the Old Testament and find the necessity of Christ’s suffering and resurrection in its pages without the New Testament.
Our Lord takes his interpretation a step further when he appears to the disciples in verse 36 of Luke 24. Later in verse 46, he states, “It is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.”
You will search the Old Testament Scriptures in vain for, “the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.” But here is what you will find:
Psalm 16:10—“For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”
Isaiah 53:6, 9-10—“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all… And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.”
Hosea 6:1—“Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.”
Our Lord Jesus is collating texts together that identify the people of God with the Messiah—through typology, the necessity of there being a payment for sinners’ rebellion, the promise of the resurrection, and the promise that God will raise his people up—all to mean “the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.” It is written “the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,” because Jesus said so, and because it is a necessary inference from Hosea 6:1, Psalm 16:10, Isaiah 53, and the rest of the Old Testament rightly understood.
If you had asked the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “Do you believe the prophets?” They with great indignation would have said, “Of course!” But if you asked them, “Do you believe the Bible in the same way as ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’” they would have begun to hedge about. If you pressed them, “Do you interpret the Bible, the way Jesus did? Can you say, ‘It is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead?’” They would have to say, “No.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ describes those who refuse to interpret the Bible the way he does as, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” Here is at least half-hearted belief if not absolute disbelief. Earlier in Luke, Jesus taught, “If they do no hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31), and so salvation is on the line.
Thus we come to a modern application that cuts at both liberals and conservatives. Our Lord Jesus obviously believes in the historical accuracy of the Old Testament from the creation account to Malachi. When Jesus argues with religious skeptics like the Sadducees, he argues against absolute physical uniformity (cf. “All Things Continue as They Were?”). As followers of Jesus, we must stand against the skepticism taught by neo-Darwinist, because the Bible rejects it and Jesus, Peter, and Paul deny us the liberty of interpreting Bible as if absolute physical uniformity was a fact.
Yet there is a subtle issue found among many conservative Christians which must be considered. They will accept Jesus and his Apostles’ handling of God’s Word as true, but not as the pattern of hermeneutics to be followed by Christians. So when Mathew writes, “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’ ” (Matt. 2:15), we suddenly find talk about apostolic liberties with the text or revealed insights. There’s an almost embarrassed shuffling about because obviously Matthew’s quote and application of Hosea 11:1 couldn’t have been understood by the original reader and does not fit into many descriptions of a literal hermeneutic. But is this plea to apostolic revelation needed to explain Mathew’s use of Hosea or because we are not following Matthew’s method of interpretation?
The Old Testament uses typology without apology or explanation. For instance in Ezekiel 28:12, the prophet begins by describing the King of Tyre and immediately slides into describing Satan before the Fall and by verse 13 the King of Tyre was in “Eden, the Garden of God.”
The King of Tyre was not Satan, but he was of his “father the devil, and [his] will [was] to do [his] father’s desires” (John 8:44). The King of Tyre’s archetype was the devil and so a description of the King of Tyre included attributes of the Devil.
The Holy Spirit and Ezekiel expect their readers to recognize and handle typology framed by the opening books of Moses. God informed the Devil in Genesis 3:15, “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.” And in Ezekiel 28:12 we find the enemy of the offspring of Eve, Israel, at enmity with the offspring of the Serpent, the King of Tyre. There are no surprises in Ezekiel 28 for the original reader who had read, understood, and believed Genesis 3. Satan was the father of lies and his offspring was just like him.
Since the Holy Spirit requires that Old Testament readers use and handle typology when speaking of an earthly king and Satan, why would the Holy Spirit and Hosea not expect the same method of interpretation concerning the Christ? Only the archetype is not the devil, but the promised seed that was to crush the head of the Serpent. In fact the promised seed on which the LORD was to lay “on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6) “although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth” (v. 9).
If we recognize the seed of Eve (Jesus) as the single perfect representative of the corporate seed of Eve (Israel), then Matthew has no new revelation in his usage of Hosea; he’s just doing exactly what Ezekiel did only he’s speaking of Jesus and the not the wicked one. Matthew’s interpretation is inspired, but it is not based on a specific revelation given to him, rather it is inherent to the original text and canon. According to Jesus to disagree with Mathew is simply to be “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.”
Jesus and his Apostles are not merely asking us to submit to their authority; they require that we interpret the Scriptures with them. Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, James, and the rest, come to us in the text with arguments about what God’s word means and they want us to agree with the argument and then to follow their patterns of interpretation ourselves.
Paul commands the use of his method of interpretation and teaching explicitly in 2 Timothy 1:13, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” The word translated as “pattern” can also be translated as model, form or prototype. Paul’s command to Timothy is “follow the pattern of the sound words” and not merely submit to apostolic insight or authority.
Jesus and the Apostle did not leave us an exhaustive commentary of the teachings of Jesus or the Old Testament, and so we must follow their pattern of doctrine and interpretation. If modern expositors must plead special revelation for the inspired author in texts where Jesus and his Apostles do not, then we have become “slow of heart to believe.” If we will only submit to Christ’s hermeneutic but not ourselves follow the pattern laid down, then we are sitting among the “foolish ones.”
Jesus and the Holy Spirit come to every Bible believer with is this: “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26). And the question we must ask ourselves is how do we read it? Do we interpret the Bible following the pattern laid down by Jesus and the Apostles or by some other means?