Connecting the Dots
My five-year-old niece plays a favorite game on my phone. I’m amazed, watching her eyes focus and her fingers move as she connects the dots in numerical order and discovers a hidden image: a lion cub, an ice cream cone, a guitar. Oh, the light in her eyes when she connects the dots!
I remember times when I have connected the dots about Jesus and the scriptures, when something was revealed to me that I had not seen before. In those moments, the light came on in places I didn’t even know were dark.
Once, I was sitting in a Hebrew Bible class. The professor, a practicing Jew, was teaching about Torah, the Old Testament law that allowed God and the Israelites to live in relationship. He spoke of a law that called for the sacrifice of an unblemished lamb to make up for the sins of the people. The dots began to connect: Wait! We call Jesus the Lamb of God. We say that Jesus was the sacrifice for the people. Jesus said he came to fulfill the law. And then it happened: The light came on. The dots were connected. And I realized more about Jesus’ death on the cross than I had ever understood before.
On another day, I was sitting in an arena with 7000 other youth pastors. A man was telling a well-known story about Jesus. But he told the story by reaching back into the Old Testament, exploring the law and the prophecies. As he talked, I realized it was happening again: The dots were connecting. I was seeing so much more in the story. I made a conscious choice to keep looking for ways to connect the dots between the Old Testament and the New.
As I studied the Old Testament, I learned about Jewish festivals and practices. I began to see that my faith is rooted in Jewish traditions because Jesus and his first followers were Jewish. To better understand my heritage, I spent a year celebrating the Jewish festivals that Jesus would have observed. I bought a tallis, a Jewish prayer shawl, to use in my prayer time because Jesus would have used one. Again, the dots began to connect. I was seeing so much more than I had seen before. The Bible, Jesus, and my own life began to make more sense.
I know that some of us avoid the Old Testament. We’ve been told that the God of the Old Testament is an angry, vengeful dictator. But if we read these scriptures through the eyes of faith, knowing that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, then we begin to connect the dots and see the Old Testament as part of our story too.
As you work your way through the Easter season (the historic church celebrated Easter for fifty days, not just one), play the classic game of connect the dots.
One thing is sure: Easter makes no sense whatsoever without the Old Testament.
Google these Jewish terms: tallis, Yom Kippur, Passover, Sukkot. Where do they come from in the Old Testament? Where do they show up in the gospels? How have these practices changed since the time of Jesus?
To understand more about the practice of sacrifice in the Old Testament, watch on YouTube the first four parts (about 40 minutes) of Rob Bell’s video “The Gods Aren’t Angry.” Begin here.
—from devozine (March/April 2012). Copyright © 2012 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.