Sadly, for orthodox Christians who would readily confess Christ’s divinity and humanity, it’s very easy to forget Jesus was a real person sometimes. By that I mean that he probably had a lot of the normal personal tastes, likes, dislikes, and so forth, that we would think of. He probably had dishes that Mary made he was particularly fond of, or stories Joseph told that he loved best, or friends up the street he would duck out to go play with. You might even imagine that there were spots he loved to go think, or hide away, much as we all do.
That we forget this is tragic because it robs us of part of the glory of the Gospel that God became man, a specific man, at a particular time and place, who could fully identify with the experience of being a human person.
I was reminded of this the other day when I ran across a remarkable quote by Christopher Wright in David Murray’s book Jesus on Every Page on Jesus and the Old Testament. He quotes Wright at length:
In the midst of the many intrinsically fascinating reasons why Old Testament study is so rewarding, the most exciting to me is the way it never fails to add new depths to my understanding of Jesus. I find myself aware that in reading the Hebrew Scriptures I am handling something that gives me a closer common link with Jesus than any archaeological artifact could do. For these are the words he read. These were the stories he knew. These were the songs he sang. These were the depths of wisdom and revelation and prophecy that shaped his whole view of ‘life, the universe and everything.” This is where he found his insights into the mind of his Father God. Above all, this is where he found the shape of his own mission. In short, the deeper you go into understanding the Old Testament, the closer you come to the heart of Jesus. (After all, Jesus never actually read the New Testament!)
–Christopher J.H. Wright, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament, pg. ix
I’d never really thought about it that way, but the Bible was Jesus’ favorite book. (Now, being a peasant, I’m not sure that he had access to many others, but that doesn’t change the point.) When you’re reading the Old Testament, you’re reading words that Jesus read, sang, prayed, dwelt on, meditated over, struggled with, memorized, and loved.
When we were dating, McKenna and I made up a list of movies we wanted the other to see because they were particularly important to us. Watching those movies together was as experience we wanted to have with each other, yes because we liked the movies, but at a deeper level, because we felt that they revealed something about us to each other. In a similar way (alongside of the theologically-thicker ways), when you dive into the Old Testament, you’re learning something the very human Jesus who walked the earth 2,000 years ago. As Wright points out, this is just one more reason for us to dive into the Old Testament.
Of course, the joy of that is that is not to feel closer to someone who lived and loved a very long time ago. The still very-human, though resurrected and ascended, Jesus still loves those texts, has revealed himself in them, and promises to give himself to us through them if we will only meet him there.
Soli Deo Gloria