That Jesus is the vital link between the Old and New is confirmed in the very first verse of the New Testament. It establishes the connection between David and Abraham, with both of whom God made covenants or agreements. It was the birth of Jesus which was now to make both those covenants meaningful, for they both anticipated One who would conquer sin and rule for God. That opening verse declares:
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1)
The actual birth of the Lord Jesus is only recorded in two of the Gospel accounts, Matthew and Luke. Both of these records bring together a whole series of Old Testament passages which found their fulfilment in the birth of the only begotten son of God. The crucial point that all the gospel records make plain is that in the Lord Jesus Christ, God manifested Himself in human history for the salvation of sinful man. Here are some key verses to that effect:
Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ”Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us” (Matthew 1:22,23)
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you. The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight’ “ (Mark 1:1-3)
“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets, who have been since the world began, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he swore to our father Abraham: to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life” (Luke 1:68-75)
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth … No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him” (John 1:14,18)
God with Us
Because Jesus was the only begotten Son of God and God was speaking through him, he was “God with us”. In Malachi, the last Old Testament prophet foretold this coming time:
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. behold, he is coming,” says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:1)
The speaker is God Himself, and the coming Messenger was said to be preparing the way before God but when that same prophecy is quoted in Mark’s gospel a subtle change is made. There it reads:
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you” (Mark 1:2)
This change indicates that the Lord Jesus Christ was, in the fullest sense, God’s representative and that God was manifest, or shown, in him in a most wonderful and remarkable way. As John explained in the opening verses of his account:
“The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him” (John 1:18)
… something the Lord himself was later to confirm to his disciples when he said:
“He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9)
Jesus was God manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16) because he was the Son of God – not God the Son.
Luke, having spoken of the miraculous conception of the Lord Jesus through the operation of the Holy Spirit upon his mother, sums up the truth of the matter in the words of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist:
“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people” (1:68)
It is interesting to note that this is the language which God used when He delivered the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt (remember the Passover Lamb!). Then He said:
“I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt” (Exodus 3:16)
At that time his agents to deliver the people were Moses and Aaron. Now it was that God sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he was both the leader who would rescue mankind from sin and death and the Passover Lamb who would make possible that deliverance (John 1:29).
John’s gospel tells us that in the Lord Jesus “the word was made flesh” (1:14). It was by His word that God had revealed Himself in past ages; now that word was made flesh, for the Lord Jesus was the fulfilment of all that God had spoken. In him, God’s complete revelation was given in the realm of human experience. When we look at the life of the Lord Jesus, portrayed in the gospels, we see the life of God manifest, the life that He wants us to share.
Not a Life Story
The four gospels are not, strictly, accounts of the life of the Lord Jesus. Apart from the information about his birth and events immediately subsequent to it, and then his visit to the temple at the age of twelve (recorded in Matthew and Luke), all the gospels relate the details of the ministry of the Lord Jesus which took place in the last three and a half years of his life. This is their main focus of attention but, even here, it is evident that only specific incidents and discourses are recorded – ones that are important in helping us to understand the things we need to know about his work and teaching.
John the Baptist was given the task of preparing the people of Israel for the public work of the Lord Jesus. He preached baptism for the remission (or forgiveness) of sins and the burden of his message was that man is mortal, the point being that we all must do something if we want to become immortal and share in the life of God. His message, then, strikes an urgent note at the start of the New Testament and again he picks up and confirms the message of the Old.
He went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Pre-pare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; and the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God’ ”(Luke 3:3-6)
In the prophecy of Isaiah the voice asks a specific question and receives a very pointed reply:
The voice said, “Cry out!” and he said, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades … but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:6-8)
Thus it was that John taught that we are all in desperate need of salvation from sin and death and his message is as relevant for us today as it was for those who first heard him. The truth that he preached is intended to prepare our hearts to accept the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ for our eternal salvation. Otherwise we too will wither and die.