A More Christlike Job (the book) – Part 3 – The Gospel Sense of Job – Brad Jersak
Gospel Sense (not simply prophecy):
The Gospel Sense is a bit more complex than saying, “Job is a prophecy about Jesus.” Instead, we ask, “How does the story of Job prefigure Jesus?” What is the difference? Prophecy is a direct prediction or revelation of future events, while prefigurement is a symbolic foreshadowing or hint of future events. Don’t worry, I’ll explain. Understanding the difference helps us read the Bible in “the Emmaus Way” (Luke 24:13-27), where Jesus identifies how Moses, the Prophets, and ALL the Scriptures (verses 27, 44) prepare us to see “how the Messiah had to suffer and then enter into his glory” (verse 26).
The first Christians understood this so well. For example, Melito of Sardis (2nd century) explains how the Old Testament prefigures “the mystery of the Lord” (i.e., Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection). In a sermon titled “On Pascha” [Passover], he preaches,
Thus the mystery of the Lord, prefigured from of old through the vision of a type, is today fulfilled and has found faith, even though people think it something new.
For the mystery of the Lord is both new and old;
old with respect to the law, but new with respect to grace.
But if you scrutinize the type through its outcome you will discern him.
Thus if you wish to see the mystery of the Lord,
look at Abel who is likewise slain,
at Isaac who is likewise tied up,
at Joseph who is likewise traded,
at Moses who is likewise exposed,
at David who is likewise hunted down,
at the prophets who likewise suffer for the sake of Christ.
And look at the sheep, slaughtered in the land of Egypt,
which saved Israel through its blood whilst Egypt was struck down.
The Mystery of the Lord is proclaimed through the prophetic voice.
For Moses says to the people:
“And you shall look upon your life hanging before your eyes
night and day and you will not have faith in your life.”
“Why have the nations been haughty, and the peoples
imagined vain things?
The kings of the earth stood by and the rulers gathered themselves together
against the Lord and against his anointed one.”
“I am like a harmless lamb led to sacrifice;
they planned evil for me, saying: Come let us put wood on
his bread and let us rub him out from the land of the living.
And his name shall not be remembered.”
“Like a sheep, he was led to slaughter, and like a silent
lamb before its shearer he does not open his mouth; who shall tell of his generation?”
Many other things were proclaimed by many prophets concerning the mystery of the Pascha,
who is Christ, to whom be the glory forever. Amen.
The Mystery of the Lord
(adapted from A More Christlike Word)
Notice how Melito refers to seeing “the Mystery” of the Lord in the Law, the Psalms, the Prophets, and more. What is this “Mystery”? That our salvation (our redemption from bondage to satan, sin, and death) was a mystery concealed (yet foretold) and now revealed (and forthtold) in the incarnation of Christ, his suffering and death, and his glorious resurrection. Most of all, as a teacher in the tradition of John the Beloved, Melito sees Christ as the Passover Lamb whose victory comes by means of his passion—whose glorification is achieved via the cross.
To summarize, while we still need to work out the literal and moral sense of Scripture, we’ve not really read books like Job as gospel until we’ve read it the Emmaus Way. Reading this way, we can gather ALL the Scriptures into three broad categories:
• Every Old Testament trial (however disastrous and prolonged) prefigures Christ’s ultimate, brutal suffering and death on behalf of those who suffered the trial—and on behalf of everyone.
• Every Old Testament injustice (by the people, the kings, or the priests) prefigures humanity’s ultimate and more wicked betrayal of Christ through Judas, the Sanhedrin, Herod’s palace, and Pilate’s empire.
• Every Old Testament victory (however dubious in its xenophobic violence) prefigures Christ’s ultimate and more beautiful victory over darkness, dread, and death.
That sounds all-inclusive—and it’s meant to be. But perhaps you have reservations about the misuse of prophetic typology. Believe me, I’ve seen it, and I get it. I can testify to how some of our friends over-spiritualize texts and misapply them to world events in worrisome ways. I believe we can be generous in saying, “I see Christ foreshadowed here,” without claiming, “God told me this verse means that.” This is not an “anything goes” hermeneutic. Rather, we’re reading with an open ear for intimations of the gospel itself within the Scriptures, and in this case, the poetry of Job.
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