At the beginning of John 5 Jesus heals a man who has been ill for 38 years – but his carrying away his mat on the Sabbath starts an argument. How can Jesus be right if he encourages the breaking of Sabbath law and tradition? The reading for Bible Sunday started at John 5:30 and Jesus says in effect, “You don’t want to listen to what I say?, OK listen to the witnesses in my case, and there are 4”:
- verse 33 John the Baptist
- verse 36 Jesus’ actions – his healing and other miracles
- verse 37 God the Father (but he passes over this – God is not
well enough known)
- verse 39 Scripture
The implication is clear enough. There is all the evidence needed to understand Jesus, and to understand is to follow and obey.
If we come into this Century, you will see that we get most of that
through the bible: Jesus’ words and actions, the account of John the
Baptist, and the Old Testament which Jesus referred his opponents to as scripture.
For us, scripture is enormously important. When I show children the church, I point out: the eagle lectern – to hold a Bible for reading, and the pulpit, for explaining what is read, and the altar, for the eucharist we are told in the Bible to do for Jesus.
But I don’t want anyone to make scripture into a magic charm – I
want you to use it! It’s not meant to be illustrated and elegantly
bound and left alone. It is meant to become part of our lives, in
dialogue with our ambitions, our habits and our lifestyle. What does that mean?
We read of John the Baptist, and those who spoke and acted against him – and hear today’s conflicting views of right/wrong, necessary/helpful/out of date. The answers we need are found in a continuing dialogue between what we do and scripture, so that God gets a say, as well as us. We read of Jesus miracles, teaching, sacrifice. What does that do for a busy week in my life? There needs to be a dialogue, putting one alongside the other, letting both speak.
We read of scripture explaining Jesus’ role to Jews – and recognise far more as we have the New Testament as well as the Old Testament Jesus spoke of. But his complaint was that they didn’t apply it, and missed the point. It’s learning to apply scripture that is vital.
And we still have to deal with God the Father. Perhaps Jesus was referring to the resurrection (still in future). It’s not “put your faith in a book the academics can’t agree on”. Its “use the bible to question and direct your life, and let there be a two way discussion. Check the results with God in prayer – and with the experience of living them.
There are many ways of letting the Bible read you; there are audio recordings and books, software, e-mails, and many schemes. However you do it, give scripture a place in your routine, and start a dialogue between the Bible and daily reality. Each will bring the other to life – and the results can be everlasting!