What Are the Gospels Trying to Tell Us?
As I'm working my way through the Bible this year I currently find myself in the Gospels. I got through Matthew last week and have proceeded on to Mark. As I read (& listen) the fact that the New Testament authors are heavily concerned with the Old Testament becomes more and more clear. One of the biggest faults and failures of modern churches and modern Christian families has got to be their failure of teaching the story of the Old Testament (on both a macro & a micro level) to their congregants & children. Due to our ignorance of the Old Testament we reduce our readings of the New Testament to an individualistic mining exercise: we search the text for "timeless truths" that will apply to us. The result is often that we are woefully ignorant of what the text is actually SCREAMING at us and consequently miss out on the REAL ways the text necessarily applies to our lives.
The New Testament teaches that all the events of the Old Testament were shadows of the reality we find in Christ (Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 10:1). This means that when we read of something Christ is doing we should understand that it is the "substance" of an Old Testament "shadow."
A quick example that I ran across was Jesus' feeding of the 5,000 in Mark 6:
30The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denariif worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42And they all ate and were satisfied. 43And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
In this passage it should be evident to the reader that this is a reenactment (in one way or another) of Israel's journey through the wilderness when God fed them with manna. This text here highlights the fact that Jesus and his disciples where going to a "desolate place." When the reader compounds this with the fact that Jesus plays off the language and imagery of the wilderness experience (i.e. - "I am the Bread of Life) elsewhere (John 6) and furthermore the fact that Paul tells the Corinthians that the rock that the Israelites drank from in the wilderness was Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:4) it becomes clear that Jesus is (and always has been) the one who feeds his people. He is the greater Moses & the greater manna.
I'm sure there is much more that could be said about this passage but the point I am wanting to highlight is the fact that the Old Testament is crucial to our understanding of the New Testament. There are (quite literally) countless examples of this, especially in the gospels but even in the book of Acts & the rest of the New Testament as well. Jim Hamilton points out (in his book God's Glory in Salvation Through Judgement) that the structure and content of the books of Luke & Acts (both written by Luke) mirror the structure and content of the books of 1 & 2 Samuel (stunning when looked in to).
Food for thought!