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"We don't interpret the Bible" (3)

There’s much more that can be said about how Jesus handled Scripture. As mentioned earlier, Matthew develops this theme a great deal in his gospel. As we look at some of his examples, we’ll see that they illustrate Jesus’ relational approach to interpreting Scripture.

Jesus didn’t seek to understand a text, He wanted to know His Father’s heart.

Jesus told the Sadducees they were in error in regard to their denial of the resurrection because "You do not know the Scriptures or the power of God," (22:29). But they knew the Scriptures! (So did the Pharisees for that matter). They would put us to shame in their ability to quote large blocks of Scripture.

But of course, Jesus was speaking about their understanding of Scripture rather than their familiarity with it. More to the point, He linked their denial of the resurrection to two things: their misinterpretation of the Scripture and their ignorance concerning the power of God. These are not unrelated items! They misinterpreted Scripture because they didn’t understand God! They collected data from the text but sadly there was much missing after that. They read the Scripture but had no real relationship with the One to whom the words belonged. How could they have expected to understand the words? If we were to receive a letter from someone we didn’t know, there’s a good possibility we could totally misread it. But when we receive a letter from someone we know well and deeply love, the words are much easier to understand because we read them in light of the relationship and view them not as mere words, but as expressions revealing our loved one. This was the way Jesus looked at Scripture.

Scripture was to Jesus as bread is to life.

Forty days of fasting with the power at any moment to turn stones into bread and Jesus chose not to do it! Why? Because He wanted to show there was something else that man was to live by --- the words that proceeded from His Father. In the wilderness, God spoke the manna into being as an illustration of the power of His word (Deuteronomy 8:3). He saturated His life with Scripture because He saw understood His Father’s living word (Hebrews 4:12).

He was concerned with what Scripture said and meant.

The Pharisees read the text and tithed of everything (see Leviticus 27:30; Deuteronomy 14:22-29), all the way down to their garden spices. Jesus congratulated them for their attention to detail and rebuked them for them overlooking the central aspects of the law --- love, mercy, and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23-24). They knew what the Scripture said, but had missed out on its meaning.

Scripture must be understood in light of God.

Gary Collier says something to the effect of "The word of God is subject to the God of the word." That makes sense, doesn’t it? Just as our words are subject to the meanings we intend for them, God’s word is subject to God. This seems to be exactly Jesus’ point in Matthew 12:1-8. The Pharisees accused Jesus’ disciples of breaking the Sabbath. Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6, "I desire mercy not sacrifice," and tells them if they understood these words they wouldn’t have accused His disciples. These words were about God and what He holds important. Not only would they be the basis for understanding other words of Scripture, they were also the basis for interpreting actions (like that of the disciples).
Well, those are a few examples but I think you get the idea: look at Jesus listen to God. If we’ll keep our eyes on Him, we’ll get a good idea of how to approach the Scripture.
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