What the Bible is About
Text: Luke 24:13-27
Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.
And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”
Do you know how to read the Bible?
A lot of people have assumptions about what the Bible is that actually keep them from reading it and understanding it properly. What do I mean? Well, have you ever had someone tell you that you should just let your Bible fall open, and that that will be what the Lord wants to tell you? That basically means that you can just read the chapters and verses of the Bible randomly, and God will speak to you directly in that way. This assumes that the Bible is just a collection of “God’s word to you,” and the verses are basically like fortune-cookie fortunes. They all work in basically the same way.
But where did we ever get that idea? The Bible certainly didn’t tell us to do it that way. And anyways, if you try it, you’ll quickly see what a bad idea it is. Unless you land in the Psalms or Proverbs, you’ll be coming across a passage that is a part of a larger story. It might be the beginning, it might be the middle, or it might be the end. It might even be a section of Scripture where one of “the bad guys” is talking and acting, in which case, you shouldn’t listen or imitate that character! In other words, this method of reading the Bible can very easily confuse you or even deceive you. Don’t do it this way, please.
Thankfully, the Bible tells us how it wants to be read. The New Testament routinely explains what the Old Testament meant, and our text this morning shows us how Jesus reads the Bible. Isn’t that amazing? Jesus shows the two disciples that the Old Testament was always about Him, about the messiah. “Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). From Genesis all the way to the New Testament, the Bible is about one story with many smaller episodes explaining it. That story is the story of the messiah, Jesus Christ the Son of God, and how He saves humanity. This story is what the Bible is about.
The Road to Emmaus
Luke 24:13 gives us the famous road to Emmaus. It’s still Easter Sunday. Two disciples, neither of whom were known to us before this story, are walking from Jerusalem to a city called Emmaus. Verse 13 tells us that this was a seven mile walk, which, if you are interested, takes the average adult a little less than three hours to walk at a comfortable pace. If you got excited and decided to run part of the way, you could easily do it in less than two.
We can see that the news of the resurrection has gotten out, because the two men are talking all about it as Jesus draws near to them. They don’t recognize Him. The text explains this, saying, “their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him” (vs. 16). Jesus then takes the opportunity to teach them by using something like the Socratic Method. He asks them questions. “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” (vs. 17)
Now, the fact that Jesus mentions that they are sad is important. It shows that they don’t yet understand the resurrection. This comes out even more when they say, “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (vs. 21). The implication is that they are disappointed. They were hoping that Jesus would redeem Israel, but it looks like He failed. So Jesus explains it to them. But He doesn’t just tell them. He asks them what happened, and then He points them back to the Bible.
The conversation went like this:
“Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?”
And He said to them, “What things?”
So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” (vs. 18-24)
What does Jesus say in response?
“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (vs. 25-26)
All that the Prophets Have Spoken
That response is important. Jesus’ point is that this “news” should not have been a surprise at all. Had the disciples believed “all that the prophets [had] spoken,” they would have been expecting something like this. “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” Wasn’t this what was predicted?
If you look back at Jesus’ own predictions earlier in the gospels, He had said on several occasions that He would be betrayed. Luke 9:22 is very specific, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” In Matthew 16, immediately after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, we are told, “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” Peter protested against this and tried to stop it, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” Jesus rebuked him, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matt. 16:21-23). So this had come up before, and in a big way. But amazingly, the message still hadn’t gotten through.
However, Jesus isn’t just saying that He had predicted His death and resurrection. He is saying that the Old Testament predicted it. And it wasn’t just one or two verses in the Old Testament. No, Jesus says that the whole Old Testament predicted His death and resurrection:
Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. (Luke 24:26-27)
What this means is that Jesus explained to these disciples what the Bible was always about. He took them through the story of the messiah, as it appeared in Genesis all the way to Malachi. He will do this again with the twelve in vs. 44-45, “all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”
Jesus can only say this if it is true. He doesn’t need literally every verse or every chapter of the Old Testament to be a messianic prophecy. There’s no reason to press His words that far. Instead, what He is saying is that there is one “big story” that the whole Old Testament is continually telling. There are prophecies, but there are also images and patterns which continually show us what we should expect. There are mini-stories which tell parts of the larger story, and when you put them together you should start to see the bigger picture.
If you pay attention as you read the Old Testament, you will start to see that many of these images and characters repeat. A common story begins to emerge. We can rightly say that “the whole bible is about Jesus,” and that means that we can say that the Old Testament is about Jesus.
How to Read the Bible
Now, don’t you wish you could have been there on the Emmaus Road to take notes? Imagine having Jesus’ own style of interpretation! But you know, we do have it, at least a part of it, because we have the example that the apostles give us in the Book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament. Watch how they interpret and apply Old Testament Scriptures, you can discover a common logic to it. They are always looking for Jesus. And they are always demonstrating how Jesus did what the Old Testament was talking about. You can see this in Acts 2, again in Acts 4, 1 Cor. 10, most of the book of Hebrews, and many other places.
This gives us a rule for interpretation. For starters, it proves the unity of Scripture. The Bible is a collection of books, that’s true. But it’s a collection of books that are all telling the same story. There is not a “Track A” and a “Track B,” much less competing stories trying to “win out.” There is one story in the Bible, from start to finish, and it is a story which is constantly referencing itself and setting for the messiah and His death and resurrection. No matter where you are in your Bible reading, you can know that you are reading a story about God’s messiah, a story about Jesus.
This style of reading also helps us clarify difficult texts. Our first question should be, “how does this teach us about Jesus?” After that, we should ask, what other parts of the Bible does this sound like? We should look for a pattern of death and resurrection, as well as images of God, His messiah, and the redemption of His people.
Among other things, this way of reading the Bible keeps us from being self-centered. The Bible is not first and foremost about you—or me. It’s not even “written to you,” at least not in the sense that a personal letter is written to a single individual. Don’t misunderstand me. It is written for you, but it is written for you in the form of a story with one main character—Jesus. Don’t begin by looking for yourself in the story. Look for Jesus! Your first question shouldn’t be, “How does this apply to my life?” It should be “How does this show me Jesus?” Application should come after that, but it too should always point you back to Christ’s death and resurrection. How can you imitate Him? How can you extol Him? How can you proclaim Him to other?
This section of Luke 24 gives us a divine mandate for biblical interpretation. Why should we read the Bible looking for the story of redemptive history? Why should we always assume that the messiah is the central issue? Because that’s how Jesus reads the Bible.
I often joke with people that I used to read my Bible and couldn’t make much sense out of it at all. It was all cryptic riddles or family trees with names I couldn’t pronounce. But then, one day, it all turned into English. The same words had been there the whole time, of course. I just needed to learn how to read them.
This is true for so many people today, even—especially—Christians today. They have bibles. They have easier access to the Bible than any human ever has. But they can’t read it. They go to it with all kinds of confused assumptions about what it’s going to tell them, and so they leave confused. They twist the scriptures to make them say the words of men.
The answer to this is not to say that the Bible has no meaning at all. Neither is it to say that you must have some other man or some institution to interpret the Bible for you, to tell you what it means. The answer is to see how Jesus reads the Bible and to follow His example. He tells us that the whole Bible, starting with Moses and the prophets, is about Him, showing how the messiah must come, must suffer and die on the cross, and must be raised the third day. Let us follow His example. Let us take and read. And let us see the messiah and His glory, in Moses and all the prophets.
Let us pray.