“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (Jn. 5:39-40)
This stinging rebuke is given to the Pharisees by Jesus as they are looking for ways to kill Him. Jesus has healed a lame man by the pool of Bethesda, but He did it on the Sabbath, violating one of the umpteen dozen rules the Pharisees had put in place to protect the Sabbath from being violated. Now Jesus is on the outs with the religious leaders, the ones we would think should have received Him most gladly.
Jesus did not rebuke them for being lazy, for failing to study or for failing to know what the Scriptures said. Notice He says they were diligent. Their study of the Scriptures would put the majority of us to shame. Chances are that most of them would have memorized large swaths of God’s word. Many of them could have quoted the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament from memory. They would go through the Scriptures with a fine tooth comb trying to find ways for themselves and their disciples to do an even better job of keeping God’s law. That was their fundamental error. Their trust was in the words written on a page and their ability to abide by those words. They had failed to trust in the Person who spoke the words to begin with. They had made the Scriptures about them and what they had to do when in reality they are about Jesus and what He has done.
As John would make clear in the opening of his Gospel, Jesus was there at the creation of all things, the Word that brought everything into existence. He walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day and when they broke His will and broke His heart, He made a promise that He would come one day to make it right. He is pictured in every sacrifice made, from the sacrifice made to cover Adam and Eve, to Abraham’s offer of Isaac, to the Passover lamb of the Exodus, to every bull, ram, sheep or goat offered at the temple. He is the final and better sacrifice.
He is the one that all the promises point to. He is the Seed of the woman promised in the Garden. When He set His bow in the sky and promised that the earth would never again be flooded, it was because that bow was pointed at Him. He would bear the judgment instead. He is the promised Seed of Abraham, by which all the earth would be blessed. He is the Prophet like Moses promised to the people of Israel. He is the promised King who would rule and reign forever on David’s throne.
He is the object of every allusion, illustration or image given in the Old Testament and every prophecy leads us to Him. The author of Hebrews lets us know that He is the better Moses, the better priest and the better sacrifice. We should also see that He is the better Abel, who offers the sacrifice most pleasing to God. He is the better Noah, the One who rescues us from ultimate judgment. He is the better Abraham, the One completely faithful. He’s the better Joseph, rejected by His own but now exalted to the throne and sent ahead to prepare a place for us. He’s the better Moses who leads His people out of slavery and death. He’s the better Judge, delivering His people from their enemies and the better David who has destroyed the giant of sin and death. His image and His fingerprints are on every page of the Old Testament.
The Pharisees read the Scriptures and thought the point was to show them what they had to do to please God. Jesus said it was all pointing to Him and the work He would do for them and for us. Then He says in John 6:29, “This is the work God requires: believe in the One He has sent.” (paraphrase) Let us be that kind of people.