Jump Start # 2092
Luke 10:26 “And He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? How does it read to you?’”
Our verse today contains two questions. Questions were used to answer a question. Jesus was asked by a lawyer what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Rather than just tell the person, Jesus asked, not one, but two questions. The answer to the lawyer’s question is found in the answer to Jesus’ questions.
How does it read to you—is Jesus’ second question. How does the law read to you? That question makes us consider some thoughts about the Bible. Does the Bible read differently to each of us? I have seen a one volume commentary on the Bible that is called, The African Commentary. It is a commentary on the Bible written by an African for Africans. Then there is the Women’s Bible Commentary that is written by women for women. I suppose there is a Teen’s commentary out there, designed just for teens. And, there probably is a seniors commentary just for senior citizens. Is this what Jesus meant by, “How does it read to you?”
So, does the African commentary give a different meaning than the Women’s Bible commentary on the same passage? Do Africans have a different meaning than Americans? Do women have a different meaning than men? Do we all have our own understanding of the Bible? This thinking has led some to conclude that we have our own interpretation. Yours might differ from mine, but somehow we can both be right and even more amazing, somehow we can be united, even though we don’t see eye to eye on things.
Give some thoughts to the following:
First, Jesus said that you shall know the truth (John 8:32). The idea that we cannot agree upon the Bible or that we each get to have our own unique understanding, dilutes truth and makes it of little value. You may not like the truth. You may be offended by the truth. You may want more options than what truth allows, but that doesn’t change the nature of truth. Truth is exclusive. Truth is narrow. How fitting that Jesus referred to the way of life as being narrow and strait.
We all come to the Bible with different perspectives, backgrounds, prejudices, agendas, histories and issues. We have been taught things in the past. We have heard things before. And with all of that stirring around in our minds, we must read the Bible for what it says. We must understand words. We must look at what is being taught. You can know the truth. Paul told Timothy to teach the same thing that he had been taught. In turn, they would teach others the same thing. Paul told the Corinthians that he delivered to them what the Lord had taught him. Same thing. Handing the same thing over and over. No variations. No deviations. Just the same thing, over and over.
Second, there is one faith. In the unity section of Ephesians, one faith is listed with one Lord, one God and one Spirit. Jude told his readers to contend earnestly for the faith that was once delivered. The Faith. One Faith. The Thessalonians were told, “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him” (2 Thes. 3:14). Now, how would that work if “our instruction” reads differently to me than it does to you. How would the African look at “our instruction?” Would a woman see it differently? Maybe I take a different slant on it. Maybe I see it from the combined female African perspective. Implied and understood in Paul’s words is that we all can not only understand but we also can obey his instructions. This idea of it means this to you, but it means something different to me, doesn’t work.
Third, much of what is behind all of this is a person wanting to direct his own steps. He comes a guy and he doesn’t want to go to worship on Sunday with other people. So, he finds a way for it to read differently. For him, his church is the golf course on Sunday morning. Others aren’t content with a spiritual mission of the church. They want to help and serve in the community. So, for them, the church needs to be feeding the poor, building homes and having foreign missions that include helping the orphan and establishing schools. This is how it reads to them. Is it any wonder we have such confusion in the religious community. Everyone points to the same Bible, yet everyone is finding different things to believe and do.
Finally, Jesus knew, by His statement, “How does it read to you,” that there is a correct understanding of the Bible. After Jesus asked these two questions, the lawyer answered with Loving God and Loving your neighbor. That’s how the law read to him. Those two major principles define the Ten Commandments. Just about everything in the law could be found within those two principles.
After the lawyer said this, Jesus answered, “You have answered correctly.” There is a correct way to read the Bible. When Jesus first asked, “How does it read to you,” there was the possibility that he could have answered wrongly. When the Sadducees asked Jesus about who a woman would be married to in the resurrection, having been married seven times, the Lord said, ‘You are mistaken not understanding the Scriptures’ (Mt 22:29). It wasn’t a matter of I see things differently than you do. There is a correct understanding and there is an incorrect understanding of the Bible. The lawyer got it. The Sadducees didn’t. How does it read to you, means, do you understand it correctly.
When the apostles went into all the world to preach the Gospel of Christ, did they have to change their message? Some old reformers claimed Paul did. The Paul among the Jews was different than the Paul among the Gentiles, they’d argue. They were wrong. The message is the same. God is not the author of confusion. The message for the African is the same as for the woman and it’s the same in America today as it was in Europe in the middle ages.
When books proudly proclaim that they have a new way of looking at the Bible we must question what is being said. First, who said the old way wasn’t right. Who said the old way didn’t work. With this new way of looking at the Bible, how did people long ago know God’s will since this new approach wasn’t written yet?
Jeremiah was told to ask for the ancient paths. We do well to do the same. The Bible reads the same. Rather than changing the Bible, we must be about changing ourselves to conform to the Bible.