How to Discover Jesus in the Old Testament

In his book, What He Must Be, Voddie Baucham said, “The Bible is all about Jesus.  Whether we find ourselves in the Pentateuch, the Minor Prophets, or the Gospels, we are merely looking at one fragment of a broader story line.  That story line finds its origin, its fulfillment, and its purpose in the person and work of Christ.  Thus, any attempt at applying Biblical principles concerning (the Old Testament) must be Christocentric.”  In other words, all Bible study must be Christ-centered.

Tim Keller asks this question of reading the Old or New Testament:  “Is it basically about me or basically about Jesus?  In other words, is it basically about what I must do, or basically about what He has done?”  (From “Preaching in a Postmodern City:  A Case Study”)

Key Question
In any Bible study, in either the Old or New Testament, always keep this question in mind:  Where can I talk about Jesus in this Bible study?  While it’s good to know the historical and geographical settings, and the context, it’s best to know how Jesus influences the Biblical story.  Look for teaching moments or conversational opportunities that open the door for talking about Him.  If your Bible study is not focused on Jesus, then it’s not Bible study!

Key Words or Phrases
Selecting key words or phrases is good practice in discovering the story about Jesus in the Old Testament (or the New Testament, for that matter).  Focus on the mention or reference to Lord or Lordship.  Be alert to Old Testament mention of blood, forgiveness, mercy, peace, punishment, restoration, sacrifice, strength of character, and a few other specific topics that draw attention to Jesus and His Cross.

As you consider each lesson or unit study from the Old Testament, develop a short list of key words and phrases.  Be specific – words or phrases that you will remember.  Be sure that the words and phrases reflect something about Christ.  Write these words somewhere that will remind you to search and find Jesus in your Bible study.

TIP for children’s teachers:  Choose words that children can draw, color, or act out (or even eat!).  During a unit study, ask kids to remember the previous lesson’s words.  For younger children, choose simple words and teach your students to spell them.  Be sure to explain to the kids why those words should remind them about Jesus.

Practical application for everyone:  Key words and phrases are a good way to apply a lesson.  Ask your class to determine how they will interact with those subjects in the coming week.  Be sure to present the key words and phrases at the beginning of class and explain that “we will learn to apply these in today’s lesson.”  Write them on the board.  Give them out on cards.  Have the learners write them somewhere they will see in the coming week.

Identify Scripture that Prophesies the Coming Christ
One of the obvious ways to discover Jesus & the Cross in the Old Testament is to identify Scripture that prophesies the coming Christ.  Those are too numerous to list here, of course.  Having a good study Bible is a big help.  For example, the NKJV Study Bible has a chapter on page 2662 (yes, that’s pages in the thousands) titled, “Prophesies of the Messiah Fulfilled in Jesus Christ.”  While it’s not exhaustive, it is thorough.

At a glance, the chart shows that Jesus is prophesied in (at least) Genesis, Numbers, Deuteronomy, The Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hosea, Micah, Zechariah, and Malachi.  The chart lists the Old Testament Scriptures and cross references those with New Testament Scriptures where the prophesies are fulfilled.  Check your own study Bible to see if you have this feature (it should be found in the Table of Contents).  If not, the next time you purchase a Bible, make sure it has this information.

In this same Bible, it’s noted in the Foreword that “Many cross-references include stars that designate messianic prophecies.  An open star refers to a prediction, while a solid star points out a fulfillment of a prophecy related to the coming of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Other Bibles have a similar feature, even if not a study Bible.

Don’t overlook your curriculum, especially teachers’ guides, unit summaries, etc.  Every lesson we teach, whether or not it is to children or adults, should ultimately find us talking about Jesus.

Using the internet:  The internet is handy but use it cautiously.  Only visit trusted sites.  Contact your pastor or other ministry leader to be certain of what to use.  Always read the “About” page at any site.  Check that site’s links to other sites to see with whom or what they interact.  An example of a good Bible study site can be found at

Although this applies to Bible study sites, some Christian bloggers feature good information.  Again, use it carefully.  An example of a good blog about finding Jesus in the Old Testament can be found at Guidelines for Finding Christ in the Old Testament.  It’s a must-read on this subject.