Bible study can feel overwhelming at times. We ask questions like, “Where do I begin?” or “How does this verse apply to me?” It’s easy to get lost in the lists, measurements, and numbers of the Old Testament. One of the best ways for approaching the Bible is to see it as one overarching story. When we approach the Bible as a comprehensive whole, the smaller stories and chapters take on more meaning and depth as we learn to see them within the bigger picture.

We should then approach our Bible study by asking, what is the “big picture”? The best place to begin answering this question is in Luke 24 when Jesus appears to two travelers on their way to a town called Emmaus. Two travelers, leaving Jerusalem, were discussing the previous events of the weekend. Jesus had been arrested, tried, sentenced and hung on a cross to die. They had placed all of their hopes into this man named Jesus, believing him to be their Messiah, the One the prophets had predicted would come to rule as their earthly king and deliver them from Roman rule (Luke 24:13-35).

On the same day Jesus rose from the dead, these two travelers, with heavy hearts, were discussing with each other everything that had happened. As they were wondering about the events of the weekend, Jesus himself came up and walked alongside of them. Initially, Jesus did not make himself known to them and he asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” Here we have a beautiful picture of Jesus casually appearing next to these two as they are walking along the road, coming up beside them like a friend would do, and saying, “Hey guys, what are you talking about?” How many times does Jesus do that in our own lives? He comes next to us and wants to be invited into our lives and our conversations as a best friend would. We don’t always recognize him at first, maybe because we are so focused on our own circumstances, but he meets us right in the middle of our pain and offers us an answer just as he did for these two travelers. They were confused, they were sad, and they were hurting. Their dreams had been shattered. What they expected to happen did not happen. They were disappointed. They told Jesus, “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel…” (Luke 24:21).

Jesus had come to redeem Israel, in fact, he had come to redeem the whole world, but the way of redemption was not the way they had expected it to look. Where they saw death and disappointment with their physical eyes, a much greater work was taking place, one that had been prophesied by the prophets, one that had been revealed even before time began. Jesus said to them, “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:26) He then began to explain to them what had been prophesied and foreshadowed concerning himself in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:27). In all the Scriptures? What Scriptures were Jesus referring to? He was referring to the Old Testament Scriptures.

The Messiah and his redemptive work through suffering is a central Old Testament theme. In fact, God’s plan for redemption is found in Jesus Christ. We cannot properly read the Bible without this understanding. When we read the Old Testament, we find that sin is a major problem. It causes us to ask the question, what is the remedy? We then begin to look for and notice answers to the remedy throughout the Old Testament that look forward to Jesus. Once we get to the New Testament, we find that Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection were the fulfillment of all of God’s promises for the problem of sin from the beginning. And as we study the New Testament, we look back to the work of the cross and the resurrection. We learn what it means to live victoriously over sin now that Jesus has conquered death and made a way for us to become the righteousness of God.

God’s plan for salvation is woven throughout the Bible with Jesus as the center. With this “big picture” in mind, we can approach our Bible study asking questions that bring us back to the heart of the Gospel message of salvation.