Focal Passage: John 5:39-47
Perhaps one of the greatest mysteries in the scriptures lies
within our text. How was it possible for Israel’s religious intelligentsia who
had meticulously studied the scriptures to miss Jesus? They constantly,
diligently searched them looking for life, but refused to recognize the
results! Jewish rabbi, Hillel, once stated, “the more study of the Law the more
life … if he has gained for himself words of the Law he has gained for himself
life in the world to come.”
Where was the disconnect? Jewish scribes truly studied (the
term implies keen scrutiny, tracking down the message) the scriptures devoting
their whole lives to its interpretation and analysis. Sadly, it was not for
discovering the truth, but simply for the minutia of the text.
They seemed more concerned with enumeration and semiotics,
seeking the fullest meaning and significance of each word. They believed that
by the intensive study of the scripture alone they would receive life.
Thus, more concerned with “jots and tittles,” the scribes
ignored the message of that word.
D.A. Carson writes, Jesus “insists that there is nothing
intrinsically life-giving about studying the scriptures, if one fails to
discern their true content and purpose.”
They had missed the important key to understanding scripture
— i.e., Christ. How many today search the scriptures to find proof for their
theology rather than allow Christ to speak and reveal himself through those
In light of Jesus’ challenge to the religious leaders, we
are reminded that “the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is
Jesus Christ,” for Jesus said to them, “it is they that testify on my behalf!”
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus told the parable of a rich man who
lived in opulence and a beggar, Lazarus, who lived in poverty and disease. At
death Lazarus went to Abraham’s bosom and the rich man to Hades. Suffering in
Hades the rich man begged for relief (but a great gulf separated them) and for
Lazarus to return to warn his brothers. Abraham makes this statement: “They
have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them … If they do not hear Moses and
the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the
dead” (Lk. 16:29, 31).
In order to fully understand the resurrection one must
embrace the scriptures, reading and believing the scriptures which all point to
Him, the final authority and ultimate interpreter of scripture. For in the end
it will be those scriptures (“There is one who accuses you; Moses on whom you
have set your hope” — Jn. 5:45) that will condemn.
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