July 12th | Text: Mark 2:23-28
I recently read a criticism of Christians’ use of Old Testament scripture. The person argued that because Jesus was critical of the way scribes and Pharisees handled the Law that the Law itself was flawed in some way. He claimed that Jesus referred it as “your law” and not as God’s Law and went on to describe the Old Testament as mythology not supported by archeological finds. While those of us in the New Covenant are not under the Law, there are many valid reasons to read and study the Old Testament. Let’s begin with the fact that Jesus read and taught from them, a lot.
Jesus read the Old Testament, or as they were known in his day, the Scriptures. Keep in mind that anytime anyone in the New Testament makes reference to reading, studying or memorizing scripture they are talking about what we call the Old Testament. The Jewish synagogue was a local place of worship for those far removed from the temple and Jerusalem. Rabbis took turns reading out loud from the scrolls and Jesus routinely read in the local synagogue of each city and village he and the disciples passed through (i.e. Mark 4:14-16). He most often quoted from Psalms and Isaiah while teaching, but also Deuteronomy, Exodus and other prophetic texts. Jesus took issue with the way the scribes and Pharisees interpreted the Law and twisted their interpretation to promote themselves and abuse their power over God’s people. His issue was with the religious leaders, not the text they were using. At the end of Mark 2, when asked about his disciples breaking Sabbath laws, he referred them to the story of David and his men eating the Bread of Presence (recorded in I Samuel). “Have you not read?” he asked them sharply. Jesus was saying in essence “Do you even read the Bible?”
The Bible is about Jesus. From one end to the other the Bible tells one story. It’s about how a holy and righteous God deals with sinful, fallen and broken people. At the center of that story is Jesus. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are at work throughout scripture. Jesus spoke with Moses at the burning bush, Moses and Elijah spoke with Jesus during the transfiguration witnessed by Peter, James and John. One of the times the Pharisees were ready to kill him was in John 8 when he said “Before Abraham was, I AM” using the Old Testament name for God to describe himself. When the Ethiopian eunuch admitted he could not understand the text he was reading from Isaiah, Philip started at that very verse of scripture and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible, including the Old and New Testaments, is the written Word of God while Jesus is the Word made flesh. In Revelation 19 the title Jesus bears as he rides a white horse and strikes the nations is “The Word of God.”
The Bible couldn’t be more relevant. The same thing that happened to awesome 20 years ago is happening to relevant now. (The pizza was awesome, the game was awesome, the worship was awesome.) The Bible is not an ancient text written by emperors in antiquity to control their subjects, not so archaic that it no longer applies to our advanced and enlightened society. Jesus quoted from Genesis when he said “A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife and they become one flesh.” Marriage was an institution given by God and what Jesus (who is God) said about it is the only definition by which it can be defined. Isaiah 1 contains a long list of things that God does not care for in worship and finally comes down to “Cease to do evil, learn to do good.” That simple command has been and always will be relevant. The Bible doesn’t need to be amended, abridged, reworded nor anything else to make it more relevant to our culture. As moral decay continues we simply slide farther and farther away from what God intended.
The Bible is God’s Holy Word, the revelation of himself to the people made in his image. The sacred text is a sacred and holy gift that we are unworthy to receive, just like the Word made flesh in the person of Jesus. It’s purpose is not to beat us down, make us feel like unworthy wretches or weigh us down with a burdensome Law; it’s purpose is to help us find our way out of wretchedness, to give us life and set us free.