What We See, We Say | John 3.9-12
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
John 3:9-12 | ESV
Nicodemus blinked. “What. Are. You. Talking. About? This doesn’t make any sense. How can any of this be?” Jesus didn’t blink. He laughed. “So you are the great teacher of Israel, and you don’t get this? Believe me, believe me, what I’m telling you I tell you from experience – what we know we speak, and what we see we say – but none of you give what we say the time of day! If I get down to earth and go through the ABCs with you and you’re just giving me the blank stares of disbelief, how can we even think about going on to such out-of-this-world topics as God’s New World?” MAV
The biggest problem with most of our theologizing is that we tend to say far more than we can ever know, and end up with far less than we could experience. We tend to labor under the delusion that all truth can be known and mastered through the appropriate gathering of Scriptures in our own mental pool. Nicodemus was no doubt brilliant. An accomplished and no doubt published scholar with letters following his name – not to mention a whole retinue of acolytes following his every inspired tweet and downloading his latest podcast. He no doubt had the Torah memorized – in Hebrew – whereas we can hardly bring ourselves to read it. Nicodemus knew. So did his esteemed colleagues. And in retrospect, they would all form a chorus singing the refrain, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Love visited them in the flesh, and the knowers didn’t have a clue. The goal of Scripture is not to get us to accumulate knowledge and then organize it correctly by subject and category. The goal of Scripture is not even to get us to know the Story. The goal of Scripture is to get us to know the Storyteller. The scholar stood before the Storyteller, and saw only a young teacher with impressive – divine, even – credentials, but still only a teacher. And when the Storyteller began going over the ABCs of spiritual reality and life, Nicodemus gagged. The scholar couldn’t even handle Gerber’s. None of the keepers of knowledge and reciters of Scripture could. Jesus spoke from experience, but they only spoke from a book. The book bore witness and pointed to the experience and to the Storyteller who now would share it with them – but the assumptions built around their accumulated book knowledge blocked their view, and their hearts. There is a warning here for us. Particularly for us religious and irreligious types so obsessed with our knowledge or our quest for knowledge that we miss experiencing the Storyteller seated right before us…
What combination of book and experience have you had in your own journey? What role has been played by each? What would you say is the balance between the two?
Abba, speak to me from the pages of the Book, and as you do, draw me into a deepening, life-changing encounter with you, the Storyteller. Keep me from unhealthy fixations on knowledge through printed page, even when the page is Holy Writ. Let me be satisfied with nothing less than your Face. Through Jesus.
For all of this week’s small group resources including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.