One of the most shocking rebukes Jesus offered to the Pharisees is found in John 5:39: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” Think about that for a second. Jesus says to these men who had devoted their lives to the study of God’s Word, “You’re missing the point.” Later, on the road to Emmaus, after meeting the two disciples who told Him of all the events of the previous few days in Jerusalem and rebuking them for being foolish and “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken,” we’re told that “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
There are times that I wonder whether or not the same is true for us today, whatever our theology and methodology. Do we spend so much time examining the trees that we miss the forest—are we, like the disciples on the Emmaus road, slow of heart to believe? How do we correct this error and start reading the Bible in light of Jesus? This is why I appreciate a book like How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens by Michael Williams. Each chapter focuses on one book of the Bible, offering a short overview of the book’s theme, how it connects to Jesus (“The Jesus Lens”), contemporary implications and “hook” questions to help guide readers in applying the book’s message to their own lives. While the idea of showing how a book is about Jesus might seem difficult to some, as if it were something that should remain in the scholastic realm, Williams does a terrific job of opening up this potentially heady topic to the average layperson. He keeps his explanations brief and understandable, his grasp of each book’s theme is solid and the application questions are genuinely helpful.
Leviticus through the Jesus Lens
While it would be far too time-consuming to offer a comprehensive review of each chapter, I thought it would be helpful to focus on one book of the Bible that few of us sit down and say “gee, I want to devote the next year to studying this one”—Leviticus. While it’s regulations for ceremonial and moral purity are intimidating, this is a book that is richly Christ-centered.
Williams reminds us that all the offerings—the burnt offerings, grain offerings, sin and guilt offerings—with “their emphases on acknowledging, celebrating, deepening, and restoring our relationship with God, reveal aspects of a coming ultimate sacrifice when we view them through the lens of Christ” (p. 22). The Mosaic Covenant required that these offerings—along with all the other demands of the Law—be performed to the letter if God’s people were to enter into His presence, even if it’s only the high priest who can actually stand before Him as their representative.
But there’s a problem. While the offerings are without spot or blemish, the same cannot be said of the one making the offering—the priest representing God’s people. He, too, needs his sins atoned for. He is blemished and imperfect. “Jesus, because he is both the flawless sacrifice and the sinless priest, fulfills both roles,” Williams writes (citing Heb. 7:27). He continues:
When we acknowledge our unholiness and put our trust in Jesus and what he has done, his self-sacrifice is credited to us and achieves for us everything the many sacrifices of Leviticus could only point toward. It secures our unimpeded and uninterrupted fellowship with God as he lives out his sacred purpose for us. Christ’s holiness admits us into God’s holy presence. There we find abundant stores of mercy and grace to help us as we seek to carry out our divine mandate to bring his blessing to all people (Heb. 4:16). (p. 23)
This is so important for us to understand as without a grasp of Jesus’ role as the flawless sacrifice and perfect priest, we can only despair as we read Leviticus. Without Christ’s life and death, we cannot possibly enjoy the “abundant stores of mercy and grace” God offers—we are cut off from them. More than that, as Williams rightly points out, it means that Christ is our holiness. He has shown us what life in God’s presence should look like and He enables us, by the Spirit, to be transformed “into those who experience that life more fully every day.” Leviticus is a book full of hope for those redeemed by Christ’s death and resurrection. Reading it through the Jesus Lens explains why.
If you’re looking for a good book to help you get a basic understanding of how all Scripture points to Jesus, you’d do well to consider this one. How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens is helpful and insightful and will undoubtedly bless you as use it as a tool to engage in a deeper study of God’s Word.
Title: How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture
Author: Michael Williams
Publisher: Zondervan (2012)
A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.