The Third Sunday of Easter - Reflection

 ‘Jesus said ‘everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses,
the Prophets and the Psalms’ - Luke 24:44

Brothers and sisters, how many of us struggle to read our Bibles, especially the Old Testament? How many times have we opened up the pages with good intentions, laboured over reading, and felt as if God is not speaking to us. You’re not alone. It happens to all of us. Dare I say, it happens to priests. God, speak to me! There’s a story of a Sunday Club leader who asked the children, ‘What is grey, furry and likes nuts.’ The leader thought it was an obvious question, but no child dared raise their hand. Eventually, one brave boy slightly put his hand in the air. ‘Yes,’ said the teacher. ‘What is grey, furry and likes nuts?’ ‘Well miss, it sounds like a squirrel, but I’m sure the answer is Jesus.’ The answer is always Jesus. We may not be in Sunday Club, but today’s answer is Jesus. Verse 44 in our Gospel reading said: 'He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." If we find reading the Old Testament hard, the answer is Jesus. It’s all about Him. He is the key to understanding the Old Testament. And that’s exciting. The Old Testament is not about the history of Israel, although it contains that. It’s not a collection of interesting stories with morals for us to learn, although it contains those. No, it is about Jesus.So, when we come to the Old Testament, we are looking to be refreshed and replenished in our relationship with him. How do we do that? We heard how in our Gospel reading.

First, we need Jesus to open our minds. Our Gospel reading proclaimed: 'Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures'. If the Bible is about Jesus, then he is the one who can help us understand it. When I was dating my wife, how did I come to understand her as a person? Her story, her experiences, her desires, and hopes? Who was best placed to explain these to me? I could have asked her parents, her teachers, her friends. But who better to explain herself to me, than her? That’s how relationships work. You listen. And the more I heard her speak about herself, the more time I spent listening to her, the more I fell in love with her. That’s how our relationship with Jesus works. We listen to Jesus, and we fall evermore in love with him. So, before we open the Bible, do we pray? Do we ask Jesus to open our minds and tell us more about him? That we might know his love for us more, and grow more in love for him? We need Jesus to open our minds.

Second, if we want to be refreshed and replenished in our relationship with Jesus, when reading the Old Testament, we need to read the Old Testament through the Gospel. Our Gospel reading said: 'Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem'. The Old Testament leads us to the Gospel. It was all there to show how Jesus would die and rise again, so that repentance and forgiveness of sins could be preached to the world. That’s the excitement that we can get from the Old Testament. Gospel hope. It’s when we read the promise in 2 Samuel that the Son of David will rule forever, and we go, ‘That’s Jesus.’ It’s when we read the singer of Psalm 22 screaming: 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And we go, ‘That’s Jesus'.' It’s when we read Isaiah 7, 'the virgin will conceive and her son will be called Immanuel, God with us', and we go, ‘That’s Jesus.’ It’s when we read the opening chapters of the Bible in Genesis, and see how one who crushes Satan by giving his life, is Jesus. Doesn’t your heart sing for joy when we encounter Jesus in the Old Testament? When we see how the Old Testament is joined up to proclaim him? It’s like when you’re wading through a Where’s Wally book, and you suddenly find Wally. Before all you could see were hundreds of characters and scenes. But now, every time you return to that page, all you can see, is Wally. It’s like reading a murder mystery for the second time. Now you know who the killer is, you see them in every detail of the earlier chapters. The Old Testament is about Jesus. And the more we see of him, the more we see him. Jesus is the Passover Lamb in Exodus 12, who was sacrificed for the sins of God’s people. Jesus is the Lion of Judah in Genesis 49, who will rule on God’s throne forever. Jesus is Good Shepherd of Ezekiel 34, who will tenderly care for his flock. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. In the First and Second Centuries, a serious question which faced the early Church was this: How did they clearly distinguish themselves from Judaism without denying that the Old Testament was God’s word to them. And the answer was first written down by an early church father called Irenaeus. And after much painstaking theological labour, he concluded this: Jesus. Jesus. Others read the Old Testament as a bunch of nice stories. Perhaps even with some characters who give us lessons to follow. But Christians read their Old Testament to see Jesus. To experience relationship with him through his death and resurrection, through repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

My son is just being awakened to this now. He delightfully loves to sit in his bed before lights out, and listen to his dad read through the Old Testament. And we always look for Jesus. So much so, that he’s starting to naturally look for him. So, the other night we were in Deuteronomy. And I read the verse which says: “Cursed is the man who is hung on a tree.” And his eyes lit up. And he said, ‘Like a Cross. Jesus was cursed by God. But he didn’t sin. He must have been cursed for our sins.’ That is what it looks like to see Jesus in the Old Testament. If we find reading the Old Testament leaves us spiritually dry:Pray that he opens your mind. And look for him everywhere. Amen (from Fr Lloyd).