The General Sherman Tree is the world’s largest tree, measured by volume. It stands 275 feet tall and is over 36 feet wide at the base. It began growing before the birth of Christ and weighs 2.7 million pounds. It has branches that are almost 7 feet in diameter.
This giant of a tree has flourished in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains despite drought, fire, and disease. It is home to hundreds of species of animals and plants and produces over 12,000 pounds of oxygen a year.
What keeps this amazing tree alive? Sap. The tree’s roots pull water and vital nutrients from the earth. This is combined with sugars created in the leaves by photosynthesis to create sap – the life-blood of the tree.
Jesus’ teachings depend upon a life-giving sap too – “the living and enduring Word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). Like nutrients and water pulled up from the roots, Jesus’ life and teachings are rooted in the the Old Testament Scriptures bringing life and power to everything He taught.
Jesus’ teachings are filled with allusions and quotes from the Old Testament writers. Like sap in the tree, these references carry life-giving truth from the roots to the leaves, binding the Old and New Testaments together as one living organism.
Jesus’ life and teachings reveal His intimate knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures and the value He placed on them. His mind was saturated with the truths He Himself had taught His people through the prophets.
Yet Jesus rarely referenced the Old Testament without shining new light on it. Every time Jesus pointed His hearers to Scripture, it was like He was pulling out jewels of truth, polishing them to a new luster and presenting them as a beautiful gift.
The Gospel accounts reveal four important ways Jesus valued the Scriptures.
- He ENDORSED the Word.
- He EMBODIED the Word.
- He EXALTED the Word.
- He ENLARGED the Word.
Let’s look at examples of each one.
1. Jesus ENDORSED the Word
Many Christians today feel that the New Testament carries more weight than the Old Testament. Some doubt the truth of the Old Testament stories.
Jesus didn’t! He recognized the entire Old Testament as the authoritative Word of God. He accepted the two main divisions of the Old Testament – the Law and the Prophets. He quoted from fourteen different Old Testament books. His references to Old Testament stories and prophets include: (a full list maybe found HERE)
- God’s recent creation – Mark 10:6-9
- Noah’s Ark and the flood – Luke 17:26
- Abraham – John 8:56-58
- Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire – Luke 17:29
- Moses at the burning bush – Mark 12:26
- Manna in the wilderness – John 6:32
- Moses authorship of Genesis – Luke 24:27
- David’s authorship of the Psalms – Matthew 22:42-45
- Elijah and Elisha’s miracles – Luke 4:25-27
- Isaiah’s authorship of the book of Isaiah – John 12:38
- Daniel’s authorship of the book of Daniel – Matthew 24:15
Jesus obviously believed that the Old Testament was the inspired Word of God and should be trusted. We can trust it too!
2. Jesus EMBODIED the Word of God.
Jesus’ life was a direct fulfillment of prophecy. Nearly every aspect of His life was foreshadowed in Old Testament prophecies. The odds of one person fulfilling all of these prophecies is statistically impossible, yet Jesus did. He truly FULFILLED the Word.
The Gospels also show us other ways that Jesus embodied, or lived out, the Word.
Jesus LIVED by the Word of God. As a child, He studied the Old Testament Scriptures and made them the rule of His life. He internalized the stories and truths. His quick mind discovered the hidden veins of truth and sought to apply them to the needs around Him.
“The Scriptures of the Old Testament were His constant study, and the words, “Thus saith the Lord,” were ever upon His lips… Jesus [knew] the Scriptures from beginning to end, and He presented them in their true import…” Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p. 84-85.
When it came time to announce His ministry (Luke 4:16-27), He did so by reading from the prophet Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn…” Isaiah 61:1-2
The Gospel record of His ministry over the next three years demonstrates how fully Jesus had internalized this mission and how sacrificially He lived it out in His daily life.
Jesus FOUGHT by the Word of God. Matthew 4:1-11 records the battle between Christ and Satan in the wilderness. Three times Jesus quoted from the Old Testament to fend off Satan’s attacks (Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:16; 6:13). This is what it means to fight with the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17).
Jesus ACTED according to the teachings of Scripture. When questioned about His actions, Jesus almost always pointed His hearers to Scripture.
One Sabbath, Jesus’ disciples aroused the ire of the priests for eating kernels of grain as they passed through a field. Jesus defended them with a story from the life of King David (1 Samuel 21:1-6).
3. Jesus EXALTED the Word
Looking for the ultimate life-hacking guide? Try the Bible! Jesus exalted the Old Testament Scriptures by continually appealing to them as the preeminent manual for life on earth.
He pointed to the Scriptures as our everyday guide for:
- Marriage and divorce – Mark 10:2-12 quoting Genesis 1:27 and 2:24
- Murder and hatred – Matthew 5:21 quoting Exodus 20:13
- Justice – Matthew 5:38 quoting Leviticus 24:19-20
- Swearing – Matthew 5:33 quoting Numbers 30:2
- Honoring parents – Matthew 15:3-6 quoting Exodus 20:12 and 21:17
- The Ten Commandments – Luke 18:20 quoting Deuteronomy 5:16-20
- The two greatest commandments – Mark 12:28-34 quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18
- What God really wants from us – Matthew 9:13 and 12:7 quoting Hosea 6:6
These are just a few of the many times Jesus presented the Scriptures as the ultimate test for our actions.
Many years later, Jesus’ half-brother James reflected on Jesus’ teaching and example of following the Word. His counsel is still relevant today:
“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:21-25
4. Jesus ENLARGED the Word.
Jesus often expanded on the Old Testament truths in His teachings. Six times in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) Jesus stated “You have heard that it was said of old…” Then He enlarged the meaning, showing it was not simply a rule to obey, but a life-changing principle.
He showed how murder and adultery were about our heart attitude and not simply outward actions, He showed the sacredness of marriage, the importance of our words, and gave a depth of meaning to loving our enemies that few of us emulate.
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets,” Jesus said. “I did not come to destroy but to fulfill…. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17, 20
Another time, a lawyer, an expert in the law of Moses, came to test Jesus (Luke 10:25-37). “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” he asked, a bit insincerely.
“What is written in the law?” Jesus asked. “What is your reading of it?”
The lawyer answered by quoting from the Torah, the Hebrew Law. “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (Luke 10:27 quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18)
“You have answered rightly;” Jesus affirmed. “Do this and you will live.”
“And who is my neighbor?” the lawyer asked self-righteously.
Jesus answered by telling the story of the good Samaritan and his selfless love for one who hated him. The story reminded His hearers of long-forgotten truths and restored their original beauty and significance.
Newly Re-Polished Gems
Jesus gave us a gift every time He quoted from or alluded to the Old Testament. Each time it was like He pulled out a hidden gem of truth, scrubbed off the accumulated dust of tradition, and restored it to its original luster. But Jesus did more than restore its original beauty.
Jesus polished each gem of truth to reveal the totality of its symmetry and grandeur.
“Jesus reveals the light of God, and brings forth the beautiful radiance of the truth in all its divine glory… Jesus did away with the old forms, he re-instated the old truths, placing them in the framework of truth. He matched and joined them together, making a complete and symmetrical system of truth.”
“This was the work our Savior did; and now what shall we do? Shall we not work in harmony with Christ? Shall we be ruled by hearsay? Shall we let our own imaginings hide from us the light of God? We are to read attentively, to hear understandingly, and to teach others also the things we have learned. We must be constantly hungering for the bread of life, constantly seeking for the living water and the snow of Lebanon, that we may be able to lead the people to the living, cooling waters of the Fountain of truth.” Ellen White, Review & Herald, June 4, 1889,par. 14.
**All Scriptures taken from the New King James Version.