ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES
by Melanie Bettinelli
“In accordance with the scriptures”
This is one of those phrases that I find it very easy to pass over without remarking as I’m saying the Creed at Mass, but that when I pause to really consider what it means I am overwhelmed. I find I could contemplate it for days and weeks without coming to the end of it.
Everything that Jesus did was foretold in the Scriptures hundreds, even more than a thousand years before he was born. That really is amazing. It was all a part of a plan. And not just part of a plan, it was something that God had been preparing us for in ways big and small. For it wasn’t just the words of the prophets that foretold Jesus’ coming, it was also the history of Israel itself, the very fabric of history as recorded in Scripture echoes forth the amazing truth of the Incarnation, the Death and the Resurrection of God made man.
More, the Scriptures are the Word of God and God the Word who became Man is not just written about in the Scriptures. He is the Word of the Scriptures. It really is more than my little mind can fathom.
About eight days after he said this, he took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Luke 9: 28-31
I just love Luke’s version of the transfiguration because in it Jesus speaks of his “exodus that he was going to accomplish.” He makes explicit the parallel between Israel’s escape from Egypt and his own death and resurrection, which accomplishes the even more wonderful freedom, not from the bondage of slavery but from the slavery of sin and death. This is how the God of history writes his story, this is how he reveals it to his people: Moses and Elijah, all of the law and the prophets, point to this moment, to this truth. What Jesus accomplishes is “according to the scriptures.”
After his resurrection from the dead Jesus appears to two of his disciples as they were walking to Emmaus and reproaches them for their lack of understanding:
“Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer* these things and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.p
My husband likes to refer to that incident as the best Bible study ever.
Having finished reading the Gospel of Mark, Bella and I are now beginning the Gospel of John. Today we read John chapter 3 and when we got to the passage about Moses lifting up the serpent, “And just as Moses lifted up* the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Bella looked puzzled. “What does that mean?” So we flipped back to Numbers and read it.
From Mount Hor they set out by way of the Red Sea, to bypass the land of Edom, but the people’s patience was worn out by the journey;
So the people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!”*
So the LORD sent among the people seraph* serpents, which bite the people so that many of the Israelites died.
Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you. Pray to the LORD to take the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people,
and the LORD said to Moses: Make a seraph and mount it on a pole, and everyone who has been bitten will look at it and recover.*
Accordingly Moses made a bronze serpent* and mounted it on a pole, and whenever the serpent bit someone, the person looked at the bronze serpent and recovered.
She was delighted,“Echoes!” We’ve been talking about how the New Testament echoes what already happened in the Old. She loves finding the parallels. At seven she’s a bit young to fully understand the significance of these echoes: how the Church teaches that the New is concealed in the Old and the Old is revealed in the New. But she loves the way they “rhyme.” And in her delight is the beginning of wonder. Dare I say, the beginning of wisdom?
According to the Scriptures.
The other day I read a passage from St Jerome in the Office of Readings:
When I read the Gospels and thee come across testimonies from the Law or the prophets, I think only of Christ. I have only considered Moses, I have only considered the prophets with the intention of understanding what they say about Christ. For, after all, when I come before Christ’s splendor and thee perceive a brilliant light of bright sunshine, so to speak, then I cannot look on the light of a lamp. If you light a lamp at noon, can it show things up? When the sun rises then lamplight is invisible. In the same way, when Christ is present then the Law and the prophets vanish utterly away. I’m not criticizing the Law and the prophets; to the contrary, I praise them since they foretell Christ. But when I read the Law and the prophets my aim is not to hold fast to the Law and the prophets, but by means of the Law and the prophets, to come to Christ.
And then on yet another day this from St Ambrose:
And as for the power of prophecy – what can I say? Other prophets spoke in riddles. To the psalmist alone, it seems, God promised openly and clearly that the Lord Jesus would be born of his seed: I promise that your own son will succeed you on the throne.
Thus in the book of psalms Jesus is not only born for us: he also accepts his saving passion, he dies, he rises from the dead, he ascends into heaven, he sits at the Father’s right hand. The Psalmist announced what no other prophet had dared to say, that which was later preached by the Lord himself in the Gospel.
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As it was written, so Jesus did. When he came among us he did exactly what he had already said he was going to do. He fulfilled his promise:
Through his holy prophets he promised of old
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.
—Benedictus (Canticle of Zechariah) Luke 1:68-79
How else could God have kept his promise to set us free? How else could he remember his holy covenant? We had broken the covenant and that oath breaking had a price. The price was blood. Either God could shed our blood or he could shed his own. Although it was we who broke the covenant, it was he who paid the price. Had he made us pay, then we would not have been free but would have still been enchained by our sins.
What are your thoughts? What else can we learn from “according to the scriptures”?
Melanie Bettinelli is a mother of five who blogs because not writing is not an option.
Read all the entries in the Blog Series: Credo: Professing the Creed for the Year of Faith.