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Lesson 3: Jesus and the Apostles' View of the Bible *

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!

  1. Jesus' Desert Battle

    1. Read Matthew 4:1-3. How would you characterize this temptation? Is it about hunger? Is it about pride? What is it about?

    2. 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?

      1. Could your body live on words?

    3. 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.)

      1. 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.)

    4. 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 presumptuous?

    5. Read Matthew 4:7. How did Jesus understand this temptation?

    6. Read Deuteronomy 6:16. We see that Jesus is quoting this text, but does this give us any insight into His argument?

    7. 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.)

    8. 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.)

      1. How did Jesus understand this temptation?

    9. 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.)

  2. Jesus, Love, and the Law

    1. 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?

    2. Read Matthew 22:37-38. Is this what you would have said?

    3. Read Deuteronomy 6:5-6 and Deuteronomy 6:3. Why did Jesus choose Deuteronomy 6:5 over Deuteronomy 6:3 for His answer?

      1. Why did Jesus quote the Bible as opposed to making up His own answer? (This shows that Jesus viewed the Bible as authoritative.)

    4. 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?

    5. Read Leviticus 19:18. We see that Jesus is quoting part of this text. Does this contradict the "eye for an eye" law?

      1. Do you think that seeking justice is different than seeking revenge or bearing a grudge?

    6. 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?"

      1. Do you think that Jesus understood Leviticus 19:18 the same way you do?

    7. 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 our rights.)

      1. 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.)

    8. Read Matthew 22:40. What are "all the Law and the Prophets?" (The Old Testament!)

      1. Contemplate Jesus' entire answer( Matthew 22:36-40)for a minute. What does His answer emphasize? (Love.)

        1. Left to your own impressions, would you say that "love" is the overriding theme of the Old Testament?

      2. 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.)

  3. Jesus' Source for Sabbath Questions

    1. 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.)

      1. Do you think the disciples viewed their actions as being wrong? Or, were they just hungry and didn't care?

    2. 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?

      1. Notice that Jesus states that eating the bread "was not lawful." Is Jesus using the Bible as His authority? (Let's continue reading.)

    3. 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.)

    4. I skipped over Matthew 12:5. Read it. Are the priests actually "desecrating" the Sabbath? (Jesus says that they are "innocent.")

      1. What is Jesus teaching us about the Sabbath? (Mercy, doing the necessary things to advance God's kingdom, is a higher value.)

    5. 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.)

    6. 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?

  4. Next week: The Bible - the Authoritative Source of Our Theology.

* Copr. 2020, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2020 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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