It seems to me that we mortal men desire to see relevance and to understand meaning in every event. We need to understand the “why” and “how” of things, and by doing so we validate that thing’s presence, its breaking through into our little worlds with its disruptions or smoothing over. We need the link of “if…then…” made clear and resolute. In doing so, we feel we understand and might be justified in the conclusions we draw.
If we seek Jesus in every detail of the Old Testament, we will find Him. However, are we correct in doing so? If we look to the value of historical and cultural framework of the Old Testament as a literary text, we will see the scope of Holy Scripture a bit differently. We will see Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament.
Christopher Wright speaks of much in his text Knowing Jesus in the Old Testament. Yet, he addresses the validity of Christ in the fullness of the Old Testament history. Wright speaks to the obedience of Jesus in fulfilling His task for the sake of mankind. He also addresses the relationship between Himself and the Father. (I hear echoes of Anselm of Canterbury…) However, Wright makes a significant point: “The obedience of Jesus as Son of God opened the way for the fulfillment of God’s universal purpose for all humanity.” Wright continues, “Christ’s obedient sonship fulfilled the mission that Israel’s sonship had prepared for but had failed in disobedience.” Wright concludes, “It was this combination of Jesus’ sonship, obedience, suffering, humanity, temptation, and victory that underlies the profound meditation of Hebrews.”
Throughout Old Testament history God is seeking a relationship with Israel. He wants communion with His family, and the law was the path in which that relationship would reside. However, as we well know, that relationship was fragmented and inconsistent at best. Wright states, “All God’s dealings with Israel in particular are to be seen as the pursuit of God’s unfinished business with all nations.” For me the operative word is pursuit. We see numbers deviations that Israel took from that path of relationship with God; we also see numbers opportunities that God allowed for reconciliation. However, it was and is through the person Jesus that God offers permanent and continual renewal.
Wright also brings to light another fact regarding God’s relationship with Israel: it was not only with Israel that God desired communion. “The Old Testament itself quite clearly intends us to see Israel’s history not as an end in itself or for the sake of Israel alone, but rather for the sake of the rest of the nations of humanity.” The fact of Jesus — His incarnation, His death, His resurrection — offers redemption for Israel and for all. For Jew and Greek.
What that say of the law of the Old Testament? Does Jesus make it irrelevant or obsolete? No. But it was incomplete. God desired relationship, but that relationship was repeatedly tarnished by man’s humanity. Through Jesus, however, that relationship is made whole.