The Essential Jesus (Part 3): Previews of a Savior

Day 1 of 5 • This day’s reading


Previews of a Savior

IF YOU'VE EVER WATCHED TELEVISION OR been to a movie, you know what a preview is. It's a short promotion for a coming attraction. Usually, the preview captures a quick taste of the most exciting parts of the entire program or movie, and by the time you've seen several, you have a pretty good idea of what's coming.

In our next five readings, we'll look at some fascinating previews of coming attractions found in the Bible. These are often referred to as "types." (Another kind of preview is in the prophetic books, which we'll consider in future sections.) A biblical type is a person, thing, or event in the Old Testament that points toward Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Many people find that a basic understanding of typology brings a new richness to their understanding of the Old Testament.

We must be careful, however, not to overdo our search for types. Some have tried to impose deep meaning on every detail in the Old Testament, and as a result, they have come to some very speculative conclusions. This may be good for selling books, but it does not promote sound teaching. Even so, there is no need to "throw the baby out with the bathwater" since Jesus himself said that the Old Testament spoke about him (John 5:46).

To maintain our balance, we will consider five Old Testament types specifically referenced in the New Testament-the Passover, manna in the wilderness, Moses lifting the serpent, the temple, and Jonah in the great fish. As you'll see, each one of these gives us a unique picture of the Savior who would appear centuries later.

As we launch into our study of Old Testament types, we can be encouraged that we are following a teaching method that Jesus used with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself" (Luke 24:27).

Significant Symbols

PRAY: Lord God, help me to understand you better as I read your Word today.

READ: Exodus 12:1-30

REFLECT: Our passage today may seem a little gruesome–killing animals, handling blood, sudden death–but in fact, it is one of the most important passages in the Bible. The Passover represents a dramatic breakthrough in the Old Testament; it's also a symbol of the most significant event in the New Testament. Let's step back and get the context.

The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for 430 years (Exodus 12:40-41). In recent days Moses had challenged Pharaoh nine times with a message from God, "Let my people go!" Each time it was accompanied by a severe plague (Exodus 7:14–10:29). In this passage, God unleashes the tenth and final plague–the death of the firstborn–and it becomes the tipping point for the Israelites' exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12:31-42).

Our passage also contains two poignant connections to Jesus.

The first refers to a lamb (v. 3) sacrificed to avert God's judgment (vv. 12-13). The writers of the New Testament often described Jesus as a lamb. John the Baptist called him "the Lamb of God" (John 1:29). Peter referred to him as a "lamb without blemish" (1 Peter 1:19). And the apostle John described Jesus as the "Lamb who was slain" (Revelation 5:12). The Passover lamb was one of the first great previews of God's plan of salvation.

A second connection to Jesus is the use of blood. Just as the blood of the Passover lamb became the essential element that saved the Israelites (vv. 7, 13), so the blood of Jesus shed on the cross was the essential element that secured salvation for all humankind. Jesus' death was the payment for sin. The New Testament references this idea (Romans 5:9; Hebrews 9:11-14).

Jesus himself picked up on this theme at the Last Supper when he offered his followers a cup of wine and called it "the new covenant in my blood" (Luke 22:20). In so doing, he reengineered the Passover celebration to make his salvation available to all people (1 Corinthians 5:7).

APPLY: What does taking Communion symbolize for you? Is it a ritual, or is it personal?

PRAY: "Just as I am, without one plea, / But that Thy blood was shed for me, / And that Thou bidst me come to Thee, / O Lamb of God I come, I come" (Charlotte Elliott, 1835).