The two men headed for Emmaus, about 15 miles from Jerusalem. Engrossed in conversation about the puzzling events that had just occurred, they did not notice another traveler swiftly overtaking them. The stranger joined the pair. He immediately noticed their sad faces, and tactfully inquired about their grief.
One of the men responded: Didn’t this newcomer hear about the bizarre death of a mighty prophet at the hands of the Romans only a few days ago? This man of God, a personal friend of theirs, had been betrayed by His own people. Now there were reports that their friend’s body was no longer in His tomb!
The stranger listened patiently, then began to chide the two travelers for their lack of understanding: “Oh foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things” (Luke 24:25-26)?
Next, beginning with Moses and all the Old Testament prophets, the stranger explained the full significance of the events surrounding the death of this mighty prophet of God. The stranger, of course, was Jesus Christ. The story can be found in Luke 24:13-35.
This account of Jesus appearing to these two disciples on the road to Emmaus teaches us many important lessons. Here was an excellent opportunity for the resurrected Christ to do away with His Father’s law and to downplay the significance of the Old Testament. Instead, Jesus used the full weight and authority of “all the Scriptures” to explain the meaning of the recent events (v. 27).
This example proves Jesus believed that the Word of God, which at that time consisted of scrolls, was inspired by God. It also proves that Jesus revered and studied the Holy Scriptures. So should we!
Why is it important for Christians to have a good working knowledge of the Old Testament and, of course, the New Testament as well? Why should Christians pursue personal Bible study today?
Here are three major reasons:
Jesus taught, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). When Jesus said that, the only recorded Word of God was the Old Testament.
The apostle Paul wrote: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Tim. 3:16-17).
About one third of the Bible is prophecy. A large portion of these prophetic scriptures, including many Old Testament prophecies, have not yet been fulfilled.
Therefore all Scripture is worthy of our study and understanding. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we, too, should yearn to know what the teachings and principles of both Old Testament and New Testament means for our day.
How conversant was Jesus Christ with the Bible? Did He study the Bible regularly? Let’s consider several examples from the gospel of Matthew to gain an idea of Jesus’ respect for and familiarity with the Holy Scriptures.
In Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus used three Old Testament verses to conquer Satan in the great temptation. He referred to the Old Testament personalities such as Jonah (Matt. 12:40) and Noah (Matt. 24:37-39) to explain important future events.
Jesus even quoted Old Testament scriptures to explain the rejoicing and praise of little children (Matt. 21:16), as well as to predict the fearful behavior of His disciples (Matt. 26:31). He taught about judgment (Matt. 12:41-42) and marriage (Matt. 19:3-9) by referring to specific Old Testament scriptures and characters.
In fact, we could say that Jesus employed the Scriptures with the same ease, familiarity and devotion as modern people discuss weekend football results or yesterday’s soap operas! He expects us to take the same interest (II Tim. 2:15).
Why did God give us the Holy Scriptures (the Old and New Testament)? Paul explained the major reasons in II Tim. 3:16: “For doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
Let’s notice how Jesus used the Scriptures in His day for these major purposes. Again we will look at Matthew’s gospel.
For doctrine. One of the major doctrines of the Bible is obedience to the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20, Deut. 5). When talking to the rich young man (Matt. 19:16-20), of keeping these commandments, quoting many of them directly from Exodus.
Over and over again Jesus stated that God’s laws had priority over man’s traditions. In Matthew 15:4, for example, He quoted from both Exodus and Deuteronomy to uphold the Fifth Commandment. “Honor your father and your mother.” If these Old Testament commandments were no longer in effect, Christ could have taken the opportunity to tell His audience to forget them. He reaffirmed them.
For correction. Sometimes Jesus used Old Testament stories to correct the wrong beliefs and practices of His audiences. He used the story of the prophet Jonah to chastise the scribes and Pharisees for seeking outward signs of His divine authority (Matt. 12:38-40).
In Matthew 19:5-6, Christ quoted Genesis 2:24 to prove that marriage is a God-ordained institution and to correct the wrong impression that one’s marriage vows can be taken lightly. Are we familiar with scriptural principles and examples and able to give biblical explanations to those who question our personal Christian conduct?
For reproof. The supreme example of Christ’s use of reproof occurred just before His public ministry. In Matthew 4 we read about the fiercest and most dramatic spiritual battle ever fought between a human and the devil. Jesus completely conquered Satan in this encounter.
Of all the resources available, including God the Father’s heavenly army and spiritual presence, which Christ certainly could have called upon for help (Matt. 26:53), guess which spiritual tool Jesus used to overcome Satan’s temptations? Scriptural reproofs! He repelled the adversary with simple, direct statements from Old Testament law – Deut. Chapters 6 and 8.
For instruction in righteousness. This refers to teaching right living based on keeping God’s commandments. As Psalm 119:172 reveals, God’s commandments are righteousness.
Consider, for example, the important characteristic of mercy. Christ explained that all Christians must develop and use mercy (Luke 6:36). When the Pharisees condemned His disciples for picking and eating corn on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-8), Jesus took the opportunity to quote Old Testament examples of David and the Levites to show that His disciples were blameless.
We know that Jesus Christ studied the Bible regularly. The Bible at that time consisted of the Old Testament. Jesus was able to turn to the exact scripture necessary on any occasion (Luke 4:17-19).
Likewise, Jesus expects Christians to diligently and reverently study their Bibles. Today, of course, our Bible study should include knowing the key examples and principles of all of God’s Word, both the Old and New Testaments. God asks us to live by His every word (v. 4) and, when called upon, to be able to answer others with a “reason for the hope that is in us” (I Peter 3:15).
Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we too, should yearn to understand more about God’s Word, His prophecies and plan of salvation. Diligent personal Bible study benefits us in the following important ways:
We develop greater faith in God. By studying God’s Word, we learn what God has to say to us. We strengthen our spiritual lives by understanding and believing how God protected, saved and nourished His people throughout the Bible.
We learn valuable lessons from the lives of those who obeyed and disobeyed God’s commandments (I Cor. 10:6-11).
We become more knowledgeable teachers. God has given parents, for example, prime responsibility for training up their children in His way (Deut. 6:6-7). Personal Bible study furnishes parents with a wealth of information to do this job. And all of us should be preparing to become teachers of God’s way in the New World to come. We have to know what we are going to teach.
Should Christians be involved in regular, personal Bible study? Yes, we should! Then we will be following Jesus Christ’s example. We and others will profit from the Word of God. This is the only way we will be able to live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4)!