Spotting Jesus in the Old Testament

Bonnie BurnettStoriesLeave a Comment

A digital illustration of a burning bush.

Tabernacle, Passover, sacrifice, atonement, scapegoat…even in English these words are daunting, but the Lord had set before me the job of explaining them to my students—in Thai. To add to it, somehow, I needed to make these Old Testament stories and laws relevant to the lives of a group of 18 to 20-year-olds in northeastern Thailand today. What do those distant times and ancient traditions have to do with us?

We began by revisiting the burning bush, the Red Sea, and plodding through the laws of atonement, and soon Jesus began to make His presence known. We recognized Him in the Passover lamb; a lamb without blemish, whose blood saved God’s people from death.

We saw Him in that single goat, loaded with the sins of the people, led out of the camp, and let loose in the wilderness to take the people’s sins far away.

We gazed at Him, the high priest, dressed in white as He entered the presence of God to make a sacrifice for the sins of God’s people.

And we glimpsed Him over and over in the bread of life/manna (John 6), the spiritual rock from which we drink (1 Corinthians 10:4), and the unleavened bread offered as a sacrifice (Mark 14:8). Those wonderful words of the Old Testament are full of pictures of Jesus, and we found ourselves with lumps in our throats as we realized that we, also, were there—pictured as the people of Israel: rebellious and needy, but oh, so loved.

It was almost hard to bring the last day of class to a close, and Mui, one of the Laos students, shook her head and confessed, “I always felt the Old Testament was not really relevant to my life, but now I see it is very relevant.” With a smile, her classmate, Baiteuy, added, “I have never understood how to see Jesus in the Old Testament, but now I recognize Him all over it.”

Our tabernacle, our Passover lamb, our sacrifice, our atonement, our scapegoat…I can hardly wait until I can teach, again, those wonderful words of the Old Testament.

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