I’ve stopped reading the bible. Not forever. What I mean is I keep on stopping.
It happened again this morning. It was there on the table, lying open. Light, life, love. Sacred awesome holiness just a glance away, but I was late and had shreddies.
I’ve heard some amazing things in the early hours when I’ve sat down with a coffee and that book.
Not always, often it can feel a bit dry or distant, my eyes glaze and I can’t easily recall what I’ve read, you had this? But sometimes it’s like God has an actual word in my ear, there’s a bit of a revelation. Something about the universe makes sense, words from the page reach my soul and connect with it, spark it into life so to speak.
I wonder what I missed this morning. Does His message wait for me to ‘catch up’ like the tele or is it a moment in time kind of thing?
I’ve had a lot of false starts with it.
Setting off with bold honest intentions to devotionally cover every page. At the start of a new year or on the back of a spiritual high, zealously tearing into it like a monk after a berocca, only to crash a few days later.
It can be hard to know where to start.
You can go from the beginning and try going straight through to the end, but good luck with that. Leviticus will see you off, if you even get that far! So we dip in and out. But then you have the same problem the Ethiopian eunuch had! We don’t know what or who we’re reading about “Is this about the messiah or someone else’’? It’s easy to get lost, and in the middle of a wet Wednesday there aren’t many evangelists miraculously running past to assist.
There are lots of reasons not to read.
But we keep coming back…
In our millions. More to this book than any other. Jesus compels us to keep coming back. Hear him make the plea to the Jews who had braved following him in the face of certain persecution, from their own tribe as well as the all powerful Romans who were already getting hacked off them.
This is how John puts it. “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free’” — John 8:31–32.
Jesus literally says to them, the way to make sure you’re following me and to keep following me, is to stay in my words, hold on to them, dwell in them.
Peter remembered this when everyone who had rushed after Jesus, impressed by his miracles and mind blowing story telling, ran away when it got tough. Jesus seeing the dispersion and maybe even the fear in Peter’s eyes asks if he was planning to run too. Peter’s reply is telling and speaks across the centuries to us looking down at the dusty old book wondering whether to stick with it or not. “Where else would I go?” he replies “You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
We might not have the willpower to pick the book up all the time but like Peter we know we can’t do without it. It has the Word in it, there’s a truth about that we’ve figured out to be true, where else can we go!
But even though you kinda know this, you’ve just read about a battle between two tribes that all seems a bit unnecessarily bloodthirsty and some tale of a priest whose name you can’t pronounce and won’t even remember next week stealing from the temple and facing generational doom because of it. That after reading a poem in Psalms that broke your heart a few times over because of how close to the bone it was and Jesus’ miraculous kindness to a broken homeless man that somehow gave you a hope you’d forgotten was possible.
Here’s the thing. Here’s why you come back and why you should read on… it’s actually all about Jesus.
Everything in it points to him and our need for him. Even when it’s crazy distant, unbelievably miraculous, elongated and boring, gruesome and violent. Even when you’ve got to read it over a few times or need to read around it to see what it’s on about. It was one of the final pieces of the messianic jigsaw that he put in place for the disciples and us after his resurrection, an ‘eye opener’ is how Luke described it.
“Did not the messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory, and beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he (Jesus) explained to them (two of the disciples) what was said in all the scriptures concerning him.” (Luke 24:25–32)
You’d want to be a fly on the wall for that conversation, in a sense, you are, everytime you pick up the book and read it with faith in Him.
After Jesus’ explanation the disciples didn’t want him or his words to leave, they couldn’t get enough, ‘stay with us’ they urged him strongly — their hearts were burning. Though only a day ago they were running away, at this moment they wanted to ‘abide.’ Him and His words couldn’t stay long enough or get any closer.
‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free’
However lost we get in the text, however hard we need to wrestle to make sense of it, however distant the story seems. However lonely and wet the Wednesday is. However many times we drop off the wagon or fall asleep whilst reading. There’s something that causes our hearts to burn at the end of it. So keep picking it up.
Ash Gibson, Pastor, Christchurch Xscape