Yesterday we looked at John 5. What a chapter. Jesus was accused of encouraging Sabbath breaking. He turned that charge into one of apparent blasphemy, then proceeded to defend himself against the accusation. For ten verses he laid out truths about life-giving and judgment in respect to his relationship with his Father. Then from verses 30-47 the defendant turned prosecutor as he went after his accusers with a sequence of witnesses that not only defended his position, but highlighted the culpability of his accusers. It is wonderful legal drama.
At the climactic moment in that sequence, Jesus poked his accusers in the chest in respect to their handling of the Bible. They searched for top tips in order to receive glory for each other, but they were blind to the revelation of God through his Son in the Old Testament. They cared for horizontal glory rather than vertical glory.
This raises an issue we should ponder. When we study a Bible passage, not least when we are preparing to preach. We need to be alert to a couple of realities:
1. Look for God’s self-revelation, not just for life advice (or even for a sermon). Wonderfully, our God wants to be known much more than we naturally want to know him. And we need to recognize that our natural tendency will always be to not see him, but to default back to seeing the Bible content as material for our sake. Some naturally default to intellectual curiosity, others to intellectual skepticism, others to life coaching tips, etc. Whatever the default nuance may be, the default orientation will be toward self rather than toward God. Only as he stirs our hearts and gives us a taste for knowing him will we discover the delight of pursuing the God who first pursued us.
2. As you look at Jesus, he looks at you. Jesus does not remain simply the object of our curiosity. As we study him, he turns that around to study us. As we accuse him, we find ourselves convicted. As we probe his character, we find our own character probed. The shift from defendant to accused found in John 5 is a shift we experience all the time if our eyes are him. This turns Bible study into a glorious conversation, if we are willing to engage in such.