Sunday, January 18, 2015

Why Did Jesus Read the Bible?

The Bible we read tells us that Jesus was familiar with the Scriptures of his day- what we call our Old Testament. For instance, we find our Master quoting from the Scriptures to ward off the temptations of the Devil in the wilderness. We also see him using it to counter the equally informed Pharisees use of the same set of Writings.

So did Jesus read the Scriptures as an act of devotion or as means of engagement with his culture?

As a boy growing up in the home of a King James toting Baptist minister, I was duly influenced regarding the inerrant and quasi-magical "word of God" (read: Bible). In time, I would recognize the bibliolotry I had been taught and of which I would later repent. But on the good side of such an upbringing, I learned to read the Bible- a lot! Every new calendar year marked the beginning of yet another reading of Genesis (perhaps the most widely read book in the Christian-literate world as a result!) which inevitably waned by mid-February when Leviticus reared its annual ugly head. In spite of failing more than succeeding in my yearly quest, I still became very familiar with the Bible's content and did a fair job at both "sword drills" and memorization.

Once I became a minister, I ravenously read the Bible. And while I would claim I was reading for personal devotions, I was guilty of the professional curse I was under in that as I read, I was looking for the next passage from which to preach a "biblical" sermon. For years I read the Old Testament every year, the New Testament and Psalms/Proverbs each month. I really knew the Bible and could weave passages into all conversations and contexts. And if I couldn't cite the exact passage reference, I could always get to the general area in the Bible where the passage was found.

And I felt spiritually mature. And my congregation and friends were impressed.

Did Jesus read his Bible for the same reasons? Was it a requirement for him as well in order to have a healthy relationship with God? After all, we all know the prescription for living as a Christian and the answer to all questions posed in Church: read your Bible and pray!

God graciously allowed me to be free of attributing divine status to the Bible and like Hezekiah did to the brass serpent, put it in its proper perspective.

So if Jesus didn't need the Bible for his own spiritual health for what reason did he read it at all? It is not recorded anywhere in our Bible that he actually read it does report that he prayed. I have concluded that our ("evangelical" Americanized church goers) approach to the Bible is beyond the scope of it purpose and intent.

It appears to me that Jesus needed to read the Bible so he could use it to put proper emphasis on its use and to counteract misinterpretations of its content. I'm sure his familiarity with the Scriptures provided him a level of spiritual encouragement that we all can access. His ability to "rightly divide the word of truth" (a quotation from Paul to Timothy that believe it or not, may not be referencing the Bible as we so often assume) was based on the same source as ours should be: the filtering presence of the Spirit of God.

To conclude, then, I need to read my Bible so I can, like Jesus, understand it through the same Spirit he did and then to lovingly interact with my Christianized culture in hopes of coming to better and more accurate applications not only of the Bible itself, but more importantly, of life in Christ today.