By James Boice
Theme: The Old Testament and Jesus’ Resurrection
In this week’s lessons we learn from one text how the Old Testament points ahead to Jesus’ resurrection.
Scripture: Psalm 16:1-11
On the first Lord’s day, following hard upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ, two people were walking to their home town of Emmaus from Jerusalem. They were disciples of Jesus, and the name of one of them was Cleopas (Luke 24:18). They were despondent because of the death of their Master. They had heard reports of an empty tomb and of angels who had told some of the women that Jesus was “risen, as he said.” But they did not doubt that Jesus was really dead and that their dream of a Messiah who should reign upon the throne of his father David, the dream that had inspired them for the three long years of Christ’s ministry, was over. While they were making their way along their homeward path Jesus appeared to them, although they did not recognize him. “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” he asked.
They replied by an offhand reference to the “things” that had taken place in Jerusalem.
“What things?” Jesus asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they answered. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him, but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel…”
Jesus chided them for their slowness to believe all that the prophets had spoken. “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” he asked them. Then we are told, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (see Luke 24:13-27). That is one sermon I wish I could have heard. It was the Lord’s own sermon on the resurrection. It was a sermon in which he expounded the Old Testament texts that had bearing on his prophesied triumph over the grave on that first Easter morning.
What texts do you suppose Jesus spoke of? We cannot know the full answer to that question, of course, though we have strong indications of some of the texts due to the way they were later used by the early disciples in their preaching.1 But one text we can be very certain of is Psalm 16:11. This is because Peter used a section of this psalm to preach the resurrection in his great sermon on Pentecost (Acts 2:25-28; citing Psalm 16:8-11), and because Paul likewise used a shorter portion of it in his sermon to the Jews in the synagogue of Antioch early in his ministry (Acts 13:35-37; citing Psalm 16:10). Psalm 16:10 says, “You will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy one see decay.”
If ever there was an Old Testament prophecy of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is this statement. It makes Psalm 16 the third specifically messianic psalm in the Psalter, after the second and eighth.
- Why were the Emmaus disciples despondent on their way back from Jerusalem?
- How did Jesus both console and instruct these disciples? What is its significance for us today?
For Further Study: James Boice’s three-volume set on the Psalms is available in paperback, and is a wonderful resource for personal, family, and group studies. Order your copy and receive 25% off the regular price.
1Psalm 110:1, the Old Testament verse most quoted in the New Testament, must have been one of them. So also were Psalm 118:22, cited in Acts 4:11; Psalm 2:1, 2, quoted in Acts 4:25, 26 and 13:33; Isaiah 53, which Philip expounded to the Ethiopian in Acts 8; and many others. The first chapter of Hebrews alone refers to seven Old Testament texts, and there are four more in chapter 2. To these specific texts the great themes and images of the Old Testament could also be added.
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