Finding Jesus in the Old Testament can be tricky to some, but for others they can seem to find Him everywhere. It is certainly not a game of Where’s Waldo, but finding Jesus is not always the easiest thing. There are varying philosophies to seeing Jesus in the Old Testament text. Some want to see him as a type in every narrative account. Others want to only say He is there if there is a direct prophecy about him fulfilled in the New Testament. I believe the best and most accurate way of seeing Jesus in these texts is to find a balance of both . . . that is to say to find Him in both portraits and prophecies.
Jesus in portraits:
It can be a dangerous and unhelpful thing to allegorize every Old Testament text to find Jesus in it, but there are certainly many accounts that seem to picture Jesus clearly. When you look at the sacrificial lamb in the Old Testament, one would be hard pressed not to see Jesus there, since Paul says Jesus is that Lamb in I Corinthians 5:7. We also can see Jesus in the prophet Moses when in Acts 7 Stephen makes the connection between the two. When Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness, according to John (John 3:14), that pointed to what Jesus was going to do on the cross. David was clearly a type of Jesus as the king of his people. Jesus is the water that came from the rock in the wilderness (John 4:14). Just as it saved the people in the wilderness, it saves his people now. But, not only was he the water, he too was the manna that fell from the sky. In John 6:35 Jesus is said to be the bread of life. This is the logical connection. Typology has its weaknesses, but there are clear places in scripture where the text nearly demands it.
Jesus in prophecies:
According to what number of prophecies you believe in, Jesus fulfilled somewhere between 100-300 prophecies in his 33 plus years on earth. There is no doubt where we find Jesus in these text.
- The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). It was fulfilled in Luke 2.
- The Messiah will have a forerunner. (Malachi 3:1). This is fulfilled in John the Baptist which can be found in Matthew 3:1-3.
- The Messiah would make His triumphant entry riding on a donkey from Zechariah 9:9. This comes to fruition in Matthew 21:7, John 12:14-16.
- The Messiah would die by crucifixion. (Psalm 22, especially vv. 11-18). We see this fulfilled in Luke 23:33, Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, John 19:23.
- Those who arrested Him would cast lots for His garments (Psalm 22:18). This was fulfilled in Luke 23:34.
So, weather in portrait or in prophecy, there is no mistaking that Jesus is most certainly in the Old Testament. It just takes a carful exegete to find where.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell