John 5:39-40 says, “Ye search the scriptures because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they that bear witness of me, and ye will not come to me that ye may have life”. Jesus presented Himself to His nation as the Messiah for whom they looked — the Son of God. The testimony of five witnesses agreed that His testimony was true. Those witnesses were John the Baptist, God the Father, the miracles He worked, Moses, and their own Scriptures which they believed came from God. Yet the assurance from these witnesses did not accomplish in most of His nation the purpose for which they were given. By and large His nation rejected His claims and, adding sin to sin, crucified Him.
The words “Scripture” or “Scriptures” repeatedly appear in the New Testament. The words means “writings”. “Writing” can refer to anything written but in the New Testament universally it designated that collection of writings from several men who were responsible for the 39 books recognized as having been inspired or “God breathed”. All of the accounts of the life of Christ cite certain things that Jesus was, said, or did with an appeal to Old Testament Scriptures. The Old Testament had foretold what the Messiah would do and be (Matt. 26:54; Mk. 14:49; Lk. 24;27; Jn. 5:39). Sometimes the word “Scripture” was not used. Instead, the Old Testament writers would express, “As saith Isaiah the prophet” or perhaps the writer would call the scriptures “the law, prophets and psalms” (Lk. 24:44). However the writer described the Old Testament contributors and their works, it was of them of which Jesus spoke when He said, “Ye search the scriptures”. The Jews accepted the Old Testament writings as from God and believed that through searching them they could find eternal life. They were correct in that assessment (Jn. 5:40).
The Scriptures witnessed of Jesus first in a very general way. The first recognized reference to the coming Messiah is found in Gen. 3:15. God spoke to the serpent after he had seduced Eve to disobey God and said, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed. He shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his head”. This passage foretold that the “seed of the woman” would inflict a “head wound” on the serpent. In turn, the serpent would inflict a “heel wound” on the woman’s seed. What particular benefit would personally accrue to the offspring of the first couple was not clearly identified. Centuries later a promise God made Abraham gave more enlightenment: “… and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). However, the nature of that blessing was still not fully spelled out. The specifics of the blessing Abraham’s seed would bestow on all families of the earth ultimately were fully revealed, teaching that the blessing for all men was spiritual in nature. Isaiah told his nation that God’s suffering Servant would “bear our griefs and carry our sorrows” (Isa. 53:4). He would be “wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace would be upon him and by his stripes we would be healed” (Isa. 53:5). Jehovah would lay on His Servant the iniquities of us all (Isa. 53:6). He would be “cut off out of the land of the living for God’s people to whom the stroke was due” (Isa. 53:8). The Messiah “would make his soul an offering for sin” (Isa. 53:10, 12). The scriptures thus identify the Messiah as One who would be both a sacrifice for our sins and our Mediator to God.
The Messiah would be born of the seed of David (2 Sam. 7:12-13), but while a descendant of David, He would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14), precisely fitting God’s words to the serpent: “the seed of the woman”. He would be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2). He would speak in parables (Psa. 78:2; Matt. 13:35). He would be betrayed by an intimate friend (Psa. 41:9) who would receive 30 pieces of silver for his infamous deed (Zech. 11:13; Matt. 26:15). He would be put to death with the wicked (Isa. 53:9; Matt. 27:38) and buried by a rich man (Isa. 53:9; Matt. 27:57-60). He would be raised the third day (Matt. 28:1-6; Isa. 53:10; Psa. 16:8-10). He would ascend back to the Father, be given a kingdom and sit at the Father’s right hand, remaining there until all His enemies are subject to him (Dan. 7:13-14; Psa. 110:1; Acts 2:25-35). He would be God (Isa. 9:6-7).
There was no dearth of testimony from the Scriptures to show that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. It was there for all to see. How tragic that the clear message of Old Testament Scripture was missed by the people of His generation and continues to our present day. The prophet Isaiah anticipated this hardness of heart in Isa. 6:9-10.
Let all approach the Scriptures with open hearts and perceptive minds. Truly we can find eternal life in the Scriptures, but we must search them to learn what they say — not what we want them to say.