In Luke 24:27, Jesus appeared to his disciples after His resurrection, and it says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” For years, I struggled to understand verses like this. Jesus spoke these words to Jewish followers who only had the Old Testament. Jesus was saying that the Old Testament Scriptures bore witness to Him, somehow, but I wasn’t sure how. There were some obvious prophecies, but it seemed as if the Bible mostly told stories about people like Adam, Noah, Moses, David and in today’s e100 reading, Daniel. How could they also be speaking of Jesus? I came to learn that one of the ways that the Old Testament points to Jesus is by laying down patterns and categories that foreshadow Jesus in a way that could hardly be coincidental. Sidney Greidanus shows how reading the account of Daniel in the lion’s den, for instance, whets people’s appetite for someone greater than Daniel.*
In Daniel 6, the scene opens with the political authorities plotting to bring Daniel down. They’re stymied in their efforts because they can’t “find a ground for complaint” against him “because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him” (v. 4). His faithfulness in prayer only heightens this picture (v. 10). Daniel is an innocent sufferer in the midst of his enemies. The officials finally realize that the only way they’ll trap Daniel is “in connection with the law of his God” (v. 5). They approach the king and manage to persuade him (vv. 6-9). When the king realizes the implications for Daniel, he seeks to free him (v. 14) but to no avail. The legal wheels have been set in motion and there’s nothing he can do to reverse them (v. 15). Daniel is put in a pit (v. 16) which is covered by a stone (v. 17) and sealed by the king (v. 18). At daybreak (v. 19), Daniel is found alive (v. 21) and unharmed (v. 23), his enemies are brought down (v. 24) and he is honoured (v. 26).
The parallels in this passage between Daniel and Jesus are remarkable. Jesus had to endure the plotting of the chief priests and elders of the people (Mattthew 26:3-4). They, too, could find no basis for a charge against him (Mark 14:55). Like Daniel, Jesus’ life was marked by intense prayer (Matthew 26:36-44). He is finally arrested in connection with the law (John 19:7). The chief priests approach Pilate and persuade him to put Jesus to death (John 19:12), even though he’s convinced of His innocence (John 19:3) and wants to release Him (John 19:12). Jesus is crucified and put in a tomb (John 19:42) which is covered with a stone (Matthew 27:60) and sealed by order of Pilate (Matthew 27:66). Early in the morning on Easter Sunday (Matthew 28:1), Jesus is found alive and unharmed (Matthew 28:9) and He is greatly honoured (Philippians 2:9). What are we to make of all of these parallels?
It’s not that Daniel 6 is some kind of secret code predicting the coming Messiah. We’re not supposed to read the Bible as if there’s some mysterious double meaning. But frequently God will lay down patterns in the Old Testament that set the stage for Jesus. Daniel would have been viewed as something of a hero to the Jews. He showed how to endure persecution righteously. He showed how to live in exile. He showed how to trust in God no matter what the cost. He showed the godly path to honour. As Jews suffered under Roman persecution, they would have longed for another leader like Daniel. The parallels between his life and Jesus’ help us to see Jesus as a greater Daniel. He was more innocent. He suffered greater persecution. He wasn’t merely spared death, He came back from death. And Jesus wasn’t just honoured by the king, He was exalted by God the Father.
Jesus wasn’t in the lion’s den but Daniel’s time there points to how great Jesus is. As we learn from Daniel, we also worship Jesus as the greater Daniel. May His sacrifice move you to praise Him today.
In awe of Him,
* Sidney Greidanus, "Preaching Christ from Daniel."