Year Of The Bible: Intro to the New Testament

Yay!  It is New Testament time in our Year of the Bible reading plan!

If you’re new, you can get Year of the Bible info right here.

If you haven’t seen them already, this week’s reading will be best helped by watching the Matthew videos from The Bible Project.  Here is the 2nd “Matthew” video.

Before we jump in, think back to your 8 months of reading the Old Testament for just a minute.  What part of the Old Testament seemed to most call your attention to Jesus?  Why?

Even though the writers of the Old Testament didn’t realize it at the time, it was God’s plan that all of the Old Testament point us to the one person of Jesus. He is the fulfillment of the Biblical story. The entire Bible is only understood in light of who He is.

Jesus, a Jew, affirmed, quoted, and interpreted the Old Testament Scriptures on many occasions… Especially in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus’ intent was never for the New Testament to replace the Old Testament, making it somehow obsolete… Instead, most of the New Testament is written about Jesus using symbols and language of the Jewish Scriptures.  It speaks about Jesus using Old Testament ideas and imagery.  It is intended in large part to create “echoes” in the reader’s mind of various Old Testament texts, and these echoes are meant to create a deep well of meaning that undergirds the surface-level significance of the Gospel writings.

Scholar and author Richard Hays talks about this in his book, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels:

The story is intelligible, at one level, for readers who do not hear the scriptural echoes. But for those who do have ears to hear, new levels of complexity and significance open up. To cite an obvious example, Mark tells the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem riding on a colt without any authorial comment whatever about scriptural fulfillment (Mark 11:1-11). But the reader who perceives the subliminal symbolism of Zechariah 9:9 imbedded in the action will more fully grasp the significance of the episode. In this case, the readers who lack the requisite ‘encyclopedia of reception’ to ‘get’ the allusion are helped out by one of Mark’s earliest readers, Matthew, who eagerly supplies the quotation of Zechariah, along with an explanatory reassurance that this event took place in order to fulfill what was written by the prophet (Matthew 21:4-5). But this example is merely the tip of an iceberg of intertextual allusion…

MOST of the Gospels are written with huge Old Testament significance.  In Matthew alone there are over sixty explicit quotations and hundreds of more indirect allusions to the Old Testament. So, to understand fully, you sort of have to “read backwards” in the Gospels by understanding the Old Testament language and references there.

I know, that is hard for us westerners, not steeped in Jewish culture and education.  But don’t worry.  The good news is that most study Bibles include footnotes to the more obvious and explicit references to help us better understand their full meaning.  Experiencing this will be humbling, challenging, and also beautiful and enriching.

Mark 1:9-11 NLT
One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”

What here stands out to you as the significance of this scene of Jesus’ baptism?

Read the following passage from Isaiah and consider the following questions.

Isaiah 63:15-64:4 NLT
LORD, look down from heaven; look from your holy, glorious home, and see us.
Where is the passion and the might you used to show on our behalf?
Where are your mercy and compassion now?
Surely you are still our Father! Even if Abraham and Jacob would disown us,
LORD, you would still be our Father. You are our Redeemer from ages past.
LORD, why have you allowed us to turn from your path? Why have you given us stubborn hearts so we no longer fear you?
Return and help us, for we are your servants, the tribes that are your special possession.
How briefly your holy people possessed your holy place, and now our enemies have destroyed it.
Sometimes it seems as though we never belonged to you, as though we had never been known as your people.

Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down! How the mountains would quake in your presence!
As fire causes wood to burn and water to boil, your coming would make the nations tremble.
Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame!
When you came down long ago, you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations.
And oh, how the mountains quaked!
For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!

You can see where the language and imagery stem from here, right?  Check this one out:

Mark 1:9-11 ESV
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

(You can also find this same thing in Matthew 3.)  Considering the words of Isaiah, what do you think Mark is suggesting about the arrival of Jesus?

Oh, there is so much more where that came from. Read the following passages in your group and see!

Genesis 22:1-2 ESV
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

2 Samuel 7:12-16 ESV
When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’ ”

Psalm 2 ESV
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 
“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 
Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 
“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 
I will tell of the decree: 
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 
You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 
Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. 

Isaiah 42:1-4 ESV
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.

Okay, now that you have read some very familiar and key Old Testament passages, put yourself in the shoes of a Jewish person in Jesus’ day who would have been readily familiar with the above passages and the language of a figure beloved by God, and announced with the Spirit of God.  In that mindset, read Mark 1 again:

Mark 1:9-11 ESV
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

What specific characters or types would Mark’s words bring to mind?

What does Mark’s identification of Jesus as a kind of representation or embodiment do about the identity and purpose of Jesus?

Did your understanding or appreciation of Mark’s baptism story change after reading those other Old Testament passages?  How?

The New Testament has nearly 8,000 verses. After just looking at three of them, how does it strike you to reflect on the depth of meaning underlying these few verses?

How much Old Testament familiarity was Mark expecting his readers to have?

Do you feel humbled and/or challenged by this?  Overwhelmed? Intrigued?

Do you think that your reading over the last 8 months will help you feel a little more of the depth of what you will find in the New Testament?

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