How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture

Michael Williams March 9th, 2012 | Posted in Book Review

Understanding how to read the whole Bible with reference to its center, Jesus Christ, is crucial.  How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture is a tool that should be in every Christian’s interpretive toolbox.  Michael Williams shows how the key themes in every book of the Bible reach their goal in Jesus Christ, like streams pour into the ocean.  Consider Jesus’ teaching in John 12 as a case in point.

A crowd is listening to Jesus while he is describing his impending death, he says that the son of man must be “lifted up.”  The crowd says that they have heard from the law that the messiah will live forever.  They don’t understand why Jesus keeps predicting his death.  And in response he says, “The light is among you for a little while longer.  Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.  The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35-36).


This is interesting.  I think Jesus is saying several things here:


  1. Jesus is the key. Their confusions about what the Old Testament predicts can be explained by attention to Jesus, who enlightens the Old Testament.
  2. Use the key while you have it.  In that way, Jesus refers to himself as the light.  Having the light among you helps you see things (like revelation about the messiah) more clearly. It helps you see where to go.
  3. Doors don’t open without keys.  If you try to solve the Messiah riddle without looking square into Jesus’ face, you will be stuck.  You will stumble around in darkness for good.
  4. Don’t just use the key, believe in the key.  Jesus’ isn’t just a hermeneutical Slim-Jim.  Understanding his true role as the messiah is meant to lead to faith, worship, satisfaction in him!
  5. You can become a key too!  Seeing the Old Testament in light of Jesus and then trusting Jesus in response transforms us into sons of light.  We because agents of revelation about Jesus for others.  One scholar writes, “We resemble what we revere, whether for restoration or for ruin.”


I use the key/lock metaphor here not to distract from the light/darkness metaphor but actually to explain it. The light/darkness metaphor is used in response to a question about how to make sense of Jesus and his relationship to the Old Testament.   Jesus wants us to take our cues from him.  Doing so will not only lead to a right understanding of the Bible but it will also inevitably lead to worshipful belief in Jesus.


Understanding the Bible in light of Jesus–or, in the light of Jesus–is ever so important.  Consider keeping this book close at hand while you read through the Bible.


About the Author
Michael Williams (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is Professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary and a member of the NIV Committee on Bible Translation. He is the author of Deception in Genesis and The Prophet and His Message, and editor and contributor of Mishneh Todah. His passion is to equip students with knowledge of the Old Testament and its languages so that they may grow in their comprehension and appreciation of redemptive history and be adequately prepared to promote and defend the faith through word and action. Michael resides in Grand Rapids, MI, with his wife, Dawn.

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