The story of Jesus does not have its beginnings in 4 B.C. during the reign of Herod the Great, in the town of Nazareth. Biblical illiteracy has led some to think of the Bible stories as disconnected moral tales, with some more important than others. The story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection might be the most important one, but who’s to say. Thinking that Christ’s only relationship to the rest of the Bible is simply being another tale in a moral anthology means you’ve missed the whole point of His story.
The story of Jesus is really the story of the whole Bible. Look at how the four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) frame the beginnings of their Gospels.
- Matthew: Begins with a genealogy tying Christ back to Abraham and David (Mt. 1:1). He also insists that the events of Christ’s early life were done in fulfillment of OT prophecies: “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet [ … ]; And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. … And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene (Mat 1:22, 2:15, 23).”
- Mark: Doesn’t get two dozen words into his Gospel before he appeals to the Prophetic witness regarding the events surrounding Christ’s life (Mk. 1:2); and later in Mark’s introduction, Jesus’ first lines are: “The time is fulfilled (Mk. 1:15).” To which we are forced to ask, “What time is fulfilled?” And, of course, this takes us back to the Old Testament.
- Luke: It is almost impossible to create an exhaustive list of the OT citations from the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel. It is laden, like a child’s stocking on Christmas Eve, with OT allusions, references, examples of the OT prophetic ministry (cf. Lk. 1:67, 2:27-28), and descriptions of obedience to Mosaic laws (cf. Lk. 2:22-23). To read it without any understanding of the Old Testament is like trying to write a book in Mandarin on Tyndale’s influence on modern English.
- John: Begins far more philosophically than the other Evangelists; he starts with an allusion to Genesis 1:1, then moves on to link Christ’s coming with Moses’ ministry (Jn. 1:17). Finally, as John the Baptist’s ministry is introduced, we see the Jews querying who John was. They ask if he was the Prophet (Cf. Deu. 18:15). He denies being that prophet. But then a few verses later he winks and nods in the direction of Jesus, informing us that Jesus is the Lamb of God, come to take away the sins of the world. In other words, here stands the grand finale of Moses’ sacrificial system and the Great Prophet who would teach Israel God’s law.
As the story of Christ unfolds we see that at every turn all the rhymes and riddles of the OT begin to be unfolded. All the shadows turn to mist and become substance. All the symbols terminate on the Savior.
We cannot ignore or jettison the Old Testament, and still think to understand the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. We must see that the glad tidings—which are declared by the Gospel writers—are such good news because of the entire story. Christ’s coming is the payoff moment of God’s story. Reading it apart from the rest of the story is like reading how the detective solved the mystery without knowing who the characters are, or what the crime in question is. All of this to say, read the whole story of how God sent His Son to save the world from a dragon.