Dennis Johnson’s new book, Walking with Jesus Through His Word: Discovering Christ in All the Scriptures (P&R 2015), has just hit the shelves! Johnson writes with exegetical care, pastoral sensitivity, and a redemptive-historical hermeneutic that wonderfully draws together parts of God’s word that sometimes feel quite disparate. Here is a nice section from the first chapter:
Jesus had been telling his disciples for weeks, perhaps months, what was going to happen when they got to Jerusalem. Not only had he been preparing them for the bad news – his rejection and gruesome execution – but he had also been telling them the good news of his resurrection. Yet when what Jesus had told them would happen did actually happen, they were first shattered by his death and then dubious about the reports of his resurrection. These men were not in the same spiritual state of outright rebellion as the Jewish leaders whom Jesus confronted in John 5. Those leaders, despite their boasts about being Moses’ heirs and defenders, had resisted Jesus tooth and nail because they had never really believed Moses and his prophecies about the Messiah. By contrast, in Luke 24 we are reading about Jesus’ friends and followers, not his enemies. Nonetheless, these weak believers deserved Jesus’ rebuke. So do we, when we do not trust deeply what God has said in his word – not believing “down deep enough” to have that faith transform our feelings and perceptions about the all-too-visible circumstances around us.
The wonderful thing is that Jesus did not merely express frustration and rebuke over his followers’ obtuseness and resistance to God-centered, Scripture-secured hope. He kept on talking (whether they wanted him to or not). And as he talked, their hearts, previously chilled by disappointment and confusion, got warmer and warmer, to the ignition point: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). Luke later describes this inner spiritual dynamic, which comes at God’s initiative rather than through our intellectual effort, in these simple terms: Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (v.45).
So here is the first key to our seeing Christ in the entire Bible: We need him to open our minds, to ignite our hearts, to take away the foolishness and sluggishness and unbelief and low expectations with which we approach his holy written Word. Since we need Jesus to do this for us, one indispensable key to walking with Jesus through the pages of Scripture is simply this: Pray! Face the sobering fact that, left to yourself, you will not “get” what God designs to show you of his Son in his Word by your own research and analysis and ingenuity. Pray that as you read the Word, his Spirit will remove the veil of misunderstanding that keeps you from seeing Jesus’ ever-increasing glory (2 Cor. 3:14-18) – in fact, that “God, who said, ‘let light shine out of darkness,’” will shine with increasing radiance “in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (4:6).
Note that the introduction and chapter 1 can be read here for free.
R. Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)