“And you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
The fifth chapter of John is jam-packed with truth and revelation. It begins with Jesus approaching a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. Jesus asked him if he desired to be healed. The man had been lying near a pool of water where others had been healed in the past. He desired to be healed, but his infirmity prevented him from getting into the healing water at the necessary time. Jesus, in His compassion, heals the man by saying, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”
One would think this act of Jesus should bring great joy and celebration because a man has been healed of a lifelong infirmity, but it did not. Jesus had healed this man on the Sabbath, a day of rest according to Jewish law; no one is to work. It may have even been a high Sabbath day because it was during a Jewish feast. This man followed the instruction Jesus gave. He carried his bed on the Sabbath. This starts a firestorm of controversy with a number of Jewish leaders. Not only had Jesus healed (‘working’) on the Sabbath, but He caused others to break their (not God’s) established rules of the Sabbath as well.
The Jews find Jesus and a discussion ensues. Accusations are brought against Jesus, and He responds by establishing who He is and where His authority comes from. Jesus is doing what The Father has revealed to Him. He is doing His Father’s work. Jesus’ words, however, inflame the Jewish leaders, so Jesus eventually has to deal with their wrong attitudes.
The Jews defended their righteousness which Jesus had to set straight. He said they “…search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life.” They searched the scriptures to procure righteousness and salvation to themselves by discovering every nuance of law to keep in obedience, and to put a burdensome hedge of protection around the law. The problem was, in doing so, they missed the most important message of scripture; Jesus the Messiah.
We think of non-believers as the only ones to have hard hearts, but truly that people who believe in the existence of God can become just as hard-hearted as those who don’t believe at all. The Jews here demonstrated that. The Pharisees, with all their knowledge of the scriptures, rules, and regulations, completely missed that their God stood before them. They should have understood who He was and support Him, but instead, they stood against Him.
We can be like that. In our zeal to be disciplined in our pursuit of God, we can miss the person of God before us. We can focus on the dos and don’ts of Scripture and unknowingly miss God altogether. I’m going to make a shocking statement… ‘There is no power in Scripture.’ There simply isn’t. Knowing it forward and backward does not produce a true follower of Christ in itself. The power is IN God. We have to have an intimate relationship with The Father and The Son which is revealed in His words in scripture. We have to walk with God in love with who He is and what He has done for us, rather than as some form of adherence or duty to obedience. Obedience will come, but it properly comes as a byproduct of our love for Him. We will begin to love those around us as His Love softens our hearts. We will love others as we allow God’s love to be channeled through us.
Should we be in God’s word regularly? Absolutely! But we need to understand. Scripture is a tool. Being in God’s Word is not the goal, finding God in Scripture is. The Jews that confronted here did not find Jesus in Scripture. They did not see that God stood before them. What about us? Do we need to be confronted, too? Do we look to the practice of a spiritual discipline rather than to the person of God that it points to? Do we ever just put in the time to get on with other things? Does our study, our prayer, the use of our spiritual gifts feed our pride more than our Spirit? Has it become a religion?
It would be great to be able to assume that because we live under the New Covenant that we are not subject to the pitfalls the Jews experienced. We have the great advantage of the Holy Spirit in us, working with us, but we unfortunately still have the same fallen human nature to contend with. We continue to struggle with these same things. Jesus’ confrontation with the Jewish leaders is not just there as an interesting piece of history. It is the Father’s loving way of reminding us to keep a proper focus as we seek Him; to keep our eyes securely on His Son, our Messiah, Jesus Christ.
I pray that your time in Scripture always has you finding the love, grace, and mercy of God strengthening your relationship with Him in ever amazing ways.