Reading the Bible Through the Lens of Jesus
Have you ever heard people say that the Bible is simply a book that teaches us how to live? Maybe you have seen this glorious acronym to summarize the Bible: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (acronyms make me cringe). What if I told you that Jesus didn’t believe this about the Bible? Ok, before you call me a heretic and throw tomatoes (or poorly-worded comments), let me explain.
Of course the Bible is meant to transform how we live. The Law was given to Israel so that they would be different than the other nations. The New Testament is full of commands for believers so that our lives are set apart and holy. But the Bible is primarily the revelation of a person—Jesus.
Jesus even taught this about Himself. Let me show you two passages where Jesus directly taught that the Bible is all about Him.
- Luke 24:13–49
After the resurrection of Jesus, Luke shares a story about Him walking from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus with two people. They could not recognize Jesus and He simply asked in verse 17, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” They look at Jesus like He is crazy because everyone in Jerusalem knew about this guy who had been crucified. They shared how they hoped He would restore the kingdom to Israel, and they thought He could be the Messiah. They recalled that the body of Jesus could not be found in the tomb in which He was laid. They were perplexed, saddened, and disappointed.Then Jesus says some astounding things: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory? Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (25,26).Later in this chapter Jesus is with His disciples and He says, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (44,45). Jesus clearly taught them that the entire Bible was about Him.
- John 5:39,40
Jesus had just healed a man on the Sabbath and made a claim to His deity in verse 17. This infuriated the Jews who were present. Eventually Jesus says in verse 39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life.” These Jews knew the Bible and they certainly believed the teachings of the Bible were basic instructions before leaving earth (cringe face). Jesus, however, said you’re missing the point of the Bible if you miss seeing Him. The entire Bible is about Jesus.
What difference does this make for us? Well, for starters, we should read the Bible through the lens of Jesus. How can we do this? To be as practical as possible I’m going to summarize a chapter from Tim Keller’s book Preaching. He has a wonderful chapter called “Preaching Christ from All of Scripture.” I’m going to list the headings in the chapter and substitute “Reading” instead of “Preaching.”
Read Christ from Every Section of the Bible
Each section of the Bible speaks of Jesus. When you’re reading in any section of the Bible, take a moment to think about how what you’re reading connects to Jesus. This could be seen in different themes as well, like kingdom and covenant. As you “pull on the thread” you will find how these point to Jesus.
Read Christ in Every Major Figure of the Bible
This one is huge and even easy for children to understand. We often teach about important people in the Bible and learn from their good or bad example. We say things like “Be like David,” “Don’t be like David,” “Dare to be a Daniel,” and so on. We certainly should do this, but these figures always point us to Jesus as the true and ultimate leader. As we see Jesus in these stories, they become redemptive rather than just moral.
Read Christ from Every Deliverance Story Line
The Bible is full of great stories! The story of David and Goliath is often a favorite and our typical takeaway is “If David faced his giants, then so can we!” What if we connected this to Jesus? “David delivered his people from evil and defeated the army even though he was small compared to his enemy. Jesus, likewise, defeats evil and delivers us from death because He suffered on our account. We are saved because Jesus fought for us.”  Again, instead of being just an inspirational story we now see redemption.
Read Christ Through Instinct
The more we know the Bible the easier this becomes. Keller writes that “once you know how all the lines of all the stories and all the climaxes of all the themes converge on Christ, you simply can’t not see that every text is ultimately about Jesus.”  Through practice, seeing Christ in all of Scripture becomes second nature.
As you read the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, work hard to understand it. At some point you’ll want to look for specific things in your life to practice or change, but before you do that, take some time simply to reflect on Jesus. Before you look for what to do, look at what has already been done in Christ. Jesus Himself said the entire Bible is primarily about His life, death, and resurrection. Don’t treat the Bible as a book of rules, but as a book of life because it reveals the life giver!
Like what you’re reading?
Each Thursday we send out our Training Resources Newsletter, which shares a new ministry tool and an encouraging story about God’s Spirit preparing someone for service.