Introduction: I am so accustomed to thinking of the Old and New
Testaments as one Bible, that I have to remind myself that any
reference in the New Testament to “Scripture,” is a reference to the
Old Testament. How Jesus and His disciples understood the Old
Testament contains important lessons for us today in our
interpretation of the Bible. For example, in our last series on
Daniel we struggled with the reference to the “abomination that
causes desolation.” See Daniel 11:31 and Daniel 8:13. A number of
commentators argue that both of these refer to Antiochus Epiphanes.
That is not how Jesus understood Daniel. In Matthew 24:15 He says
that the “abomination that causes desolation” will be in the future.
That rules out Antiochus, who lived before Jesus was born on earth.
How many other texts did Jesus interpret? Let’s dive into our lesson
and consider some ways in which Jesus understood the Old Testament!
- Jesus’ Desert Battle
- Read Matthew 4:1-3. How would you characterize this
temptation? Is it about hunger? Is it about pride? What is
- Read Matthew 4:4. What argument is Jesus making? Jesus
seems to agree that bread is necessary (“not live on bread
alone”. Since bread is necessary, why not make it?
- Could your body live on words?
- Read Deuteronomy 8:2-3. We see that this is the text that
Jesus cited to Satan. How do you understand Deuteronomy
8:2-3. (Manna came from God. God made it (no doubt) by
simply commanding it. He made it by His words.)
- How does that answer Satan? Isn’t that exactly what
Satan is proposing to Jesus – that He should divinely
create food? (No. Jesus is saying that humans did not
have to feed themselves, God provided for them and
God the Father would provide for Jesus while He was
living as a human.)
- Read Matthew 4:6. How would you characterize this
temptation? Is he challenging Jesus’ divinity? Is he
challenging Jesus’ trust in God? Is he asking Jesus to be
- Read Matthew 4:7. How did Jesus understand this
- Read Deuteronomy 6:16. We see that Jesus is quoting this
text, but does this give us any insight into His argument?
- Read Exodus 17:1-2 and Exodus 17:6-7. Now we can see what
Deuteronomy 6:16 is talking about. Is this the kind of
testing of God that Matthew 4:6 presents? (The test at
Massah was whether God was with them. Satan had challenged
whether Jesus was the “Son of God,” thus he was
challenging whether God was with Jesus. Jesus understood
the temptation that way and He responded with a text that
He understood met that challenge.)
- Read Matthew 4:8-9. What do you think Satan means when He
says, “All this I will give you?” (Jesus came to redeem
the world and take it back from Satan. Satan offers a
painless (no cross) way to take charge of the world.)
- How did Jesus understand this temptation?
- Read Deuteronomy 6:13. This is the text that Jesus appears
to be citing. What does this tell us about the way that
Jesus understood this text? (We cannot take the easy way
out by compromising our allegiance to God.)
- Jesus, Love, and the Law
- Read Matthew 22:34-36. If you were asked this question,
and you only had the Old Testament to consider, how would
you have answered?
- Read Matthew 22:37-38. Is this what you would have said?
- Read Deuteronomy 6:5-6 and Deuteronomy 6:3. Why did Jesus
choose Deuteronomy 6:5 over Deuteronomy 6:3 for His
- Why did Jesus quote the Bible as opposed to making up
His own answer? (This shows that Jesus viewed the
Bible as authoritative.)
- Let’s continue on with Jesus’ answer. Read Matthew 22:39.
Would your answer have been the same given your knowledge
of the Old Testament? What about the “eye for an eye”
( Exodus 21:24) teaching?
- Read Leviticus 19:18. We see that Jesus is quoting part of
this text. Does this contradict the “eye for an eye” law?
- Do you think that seeking justice is different than
seeking revenge or bearing a grudge?
- Let’s read Leviticus 19:15-17 to better understand the
context. Does this give you a different understanding of
Jesus’ statement to “love your neighbor as yourself?”
- Do you think that Jesus understood Leviticus 19:18
the same way you do?
- Let’s read Matthew 5:38-39. When I looked at the context
of Leviticus 19:18, I thought it meant that “eye for an
eye” referred to justice, and that was consistent with
loving your neighbor as yourself. Justice is different
than revenge or holding a grudge. What is Jesus teaching
here? (I think He is saying that we do not have to enforce
- Is this a command that we must not enforce our
rights? If so, how do you explain John 18:22-23? (I
think a fair reading of this is that Jesus resisted
being slapped, rather than turning his face for
another slap. In the larger context, however, Jesus
was not “resisting” because He could have called down
heaven to destroy His enemies at that moment. But,
this suggests that Jesus is making a “best practice”
recommendation about resisting and not stating that
it is sin to resist evil.)
- Read Matthew 22:40. What are “all the Law and the
Prophets?” (The Old Testament!)
- Contemplate Jesus’ entire answer( Matthew 22:36-40)for
a minute. What does His answer emphasize? (Love.)
- Left to your own impressions, would you say
that “love” is the overriding theme of the Old
- Recall the question that Jesus is answering, “Which
is the greatest command of the law?” Does that mean
that everything said and done at God’s direction in
the Old Testament is a loving act? Consider, for
example, Leviticus 24:16 and Leviticus 20:27. (The
motivating factor behind the Old Testament is love to
God and love to each other. That does not preclude
the rule of law or punishment. They are a necessary
part to love.)
- Jesus’ Source for Sabbath Questions
- Read Matthew 12:1-2. What part of the disciples’ actions
is unlawful? Eating the grain of someone else? Picking and
eating on the Sabbath? (Presumably stealing is not the
accusation, because that would be wrong on any day. It
must be picking on the Sabbath.)
- Do you think the disciples viewed their actions as
being wrong? Or, were they just hungry and didn’t
- Read Matthew 12:3-4. What do you think of Jesus’ answer
that David also did something unlawful when he was hungry?
What if the disciples were committing adultery, would a
reference to David be the correct response?
- Notice that Jesus states that eating the bread “was
not lawful.” Is Jesus using the Bible as His
authority? (Let’s continue reading.)
- Read Matthew 12:6-8 and Hosea 6:6. Hosea chapter 6 is
about God’s people after they have been severely punished
for turning away from God. What meaning does Jesus give to
these words in Hosea? (If the Pharisees accepted Jesus as
the Messiah, and did not turn away, they would have
recognized His authority to say what is appropriate on the
Sabbath. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath and He gets to
decide what is appropriate.)
- I skipped over Matthew 12:5. Read it. Are the priests
actually “desecrating” the Sabbath? (Jesus says that they
- What is Jesus teaching us about the Sabbath? (Mercy,
doing the necessary things to advance God’s kingdom,
is a higher value.)
- Read Mark 2:27-28 for an additional comment made by Jesus.
What is the “higher value” in this story of the disciples
picking on Sabbath? (Putting humans before the Sabbath.
The point of the Sabbath is to be a blessing to us. Thus,
showing mercy to the hungry disciples on the Sabbath is
the right way to view the Sabbath.)
- Friend, do you see how Jesus used the Bible to answer
temptations and challenges? He viewed the Bible as being
authoritative, and we should too. Will you accept the
Bible as the authority in your life?
- Next week: The Bible – the Authoritative Source of Our