how do you read? | John 5.39-46
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” John 5.39-46 | ESV
Oh how you pour over the Old Books (exhibit D!) – like you think your life depends on it! And on every page, in every line, the Old Books point to me. But you’ll have none of it. None of me. And so, none of life.
But look, I don’t need recognition and glowing write-ups from you or any human being – and your total lack of response to the Reality of God in me makes it painfully clear that whatever you are about, it’s not the love of God! Here I am, showing up on my Father’s behalf, flashing his credentials through my actions, and the best you can muster up by way of response is, “Meh.” Now, when some other messianic wannabe shows up flashing his supposed credentials in a bunch of loud talk, oh yeah, you’re right there sucking it all up. When you’re so hung up on the recognition and appreciation of each other while totally blowing off what the One and Only GOD has to say about all this, what hope is there you could ever actually embrace a life of quiet trust in him?
Don’t think for a moment that all of this harsh talk from me means that I’m going to go all ballistic on you before the Father. I’m not the one pointing the accusing finger at you. I’ll leave that to my fifth and final witness: Moses. Yes, the Moses you love and adore, the one on whom you are staking everything, is the very one telling on you before God. You know, if you really believed a word of what Moses said, you’d believe every word I have to say, because Moses wrote about me. But if when all is said and done you’re not going to give his words the time of day, then why am I wasting my breath on you? You’ll never believe me either. Not a chance. MAV
All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable
for training in righteousness
that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
It’s a classic text.
Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching and deep practical insights that result in deep inner change reflected in a transformed life on multiple, practical levels.
It’s profitable for it, but it doesn’t guarantee it.
We know it doesn’t, because it was a band of Bible scholars who knew their text better than most of us know ours that conspired to murder the Prince of Life. Reading the Bible does not equal spiritual insight or salvation. All too often it seems to mean the opposite. And that’s not the Bible’s fault, anymore than it was Moses’ fault that his admiring heirs consistently didn’t get it.
The reality is, as Paul aptly acknowledged, “We know that we all have knowledge; knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone thinks he knows anything, he doesn’t yet know as he ought to know; but the one who loves God is known by God.” That pretty much sums up the condition of Jesus’ judges – people who could have been champs in every Bible Bowl that’s ever been conducted.
They knew it, but they didn’t get it.
Which is why Jesus kept saying things to them like, “Have you not read?” or “Go and learn what this means,” or “You do err not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” They knew the number of words and letters in the various books of the Bible, they just couldn’t begin to grasp the potential implications of all those words and letters when they were put together.
There’s the real question – and one that Jesus himself asked on at least one occasion: “How do you read?”
Does our reading of Scripture (or anything else, for that matter) lead us into to the open-ended, creative possibilities of God, or does it lead us right back around to the predictable assumptions and conclusions we started with?
To read the former way is to transcend every printed page in the ultimate encounter with the creative Word that “was with God and was God;” to read the latter way is be left with mere letters on the page – and the disapproving judgment of the letter-givers. Scripture isn’t the end or destination; it’s the portal. And the portal points to Christ.
So how do you read?
How would you describe your own encounter with the Bible? Do you experience it more as a launching pad or a destination – or is it more of a dead end for you – or what? Why?
Abba, may the opening of your words bring new possibilities bursting upon the horizons of my life. Show me how to read, and let me read well, and wide, and deep. And let me find You, let me find Life, as I do. Through Christ.