38 And his word does not live in you. That’s because you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures carefully. You study them because you think they will give you eternal life. The Scriptures you study are a witness about me. 40 But you refuse to come to me and receive life.
John 5:38-40 (New International Reader’s Version)
Okay, I’m about to get off-track for Lent, however please bear with me.
The above verses are part of a indictment Jesus leveled at the Pharisees, who were trying to get him killed for breaking the Sabbath and equaling himself with God (John 5:16-18). Plus, Jesus healed the disabled man at the Pool of Bethesda-which was on the Sabbath. You see, the Pharisees and their ilk were “by the book” when it came to the Scriptures (what we call our Old Testament today). These cats worshipped the Scriptures more than they did God (called “bibliolatry” today); and as a result left a lot of their fellows out in the cold. Many a time, these cats would use the Scriptures as their own religious billy club on whom they chose-including Jesus. This was manifest more than once-especially when Jesus did his work on the Sabbath.
Jesus showed the Pharisees their true selves: that God’s word didn’t live in them (or should I say God didn’t live in them). These cats had their noses in the Scriptures all the time, thinking that said Scriptures would give them eternal life. However, the sad part of all this is the Pharisees failed to realize was that the Scriptures pointed to Jesus; and that he had life for them if they’d only come to him and receive it.
Now before you think I’m telling you to ditch your Bible for Lent, please rest certain I’m not. However, if God tells you to ditch your Bible for Lent (and God could), that would be a cat of a whole different breed. However, as we study and work with the Bible let’s not fall into the same trap as the Pharisees of old did. This is prevalent in Fundagelical Christianity where you have the literal belief in the Bible to the exclusion of any different opinion. We see these Fundagelicals using the Bible to beat up sexual minorities, women, people of color, the poor, science, and any intellectual dialogue that’s seen as threatening. The Bible becomes the battering ram-killing instead of giving life. And the Bible winds up knocking Jesus off center stage in one’s Christian journey. In the end, these folks will know the words of Scripture, but will never have the Word of God living in them.
Let us remember that the Scriptures point us to Jesus, who is our life. Let us ask God to help us study those words anew-not to the exclusion of our fellows and things different-but to engage with love. Let us also remember it’s not the Bible that would ultimately save us, but God Him/Herself. That it’s God who gives His/Her word, not the Bible.
That’s a word on the Word for tonight. Until next time, Peace!