The Bible’s gift

Matthew 3:1-12

An elementary school principal once taught me something about reading. Up to around the second grade, students learn to read. After that, they read to learn. Their reading informs and helps them understand new concepts. 

Reading the Bible is similar. We learn to read the Bible. Then we let our reading shape our devotion to God. 

Case in point, in John’s telling of the gospel, he refers to the Jews approximately seventy times. That’s far more than the other gospels combined. The Jews oppose Jesus. They are responsible for his death. But when John refers to the Jews, most times, he isn’t identifying an entire people. The label is for religious leaders who stand against Jesus.

I had read that argument before. It didn’t resonate too much until I casually mentioned it as part of a Bible study once. Someone asked for clarity and a time of confession opened up. It was an important lesson because for that person the Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death. “The Jews killed Jesus” wasn’t a summary. It was a hostility. 

Here’s another example. Consider when John the Baptist saw Pharisees and Sadducees come for baptism. He wasn’t impressed by their presence, even if they were the religious leaders of the day. And how many times have you heard modern Christians accuse others of being Pharisees? No one wants to be a Pharisee because they were unfaithful and ungodly. 

Except, they weren’t. Some were, for sure. Maybe even a lot of them. But to lump them all together isn’t good Bible reading. Think of Nicodemus.

It’s too easy to blame other groups of people. Too much blaming the Jews lets you off the hook when you deny Jesus. If you’re content with not being a Pharisee you miss the point. We don’t call church leaders Pharisees today. But many church leaders in the pews have the same authority, power and control over their church. And they don’t always use it for God’s glory.

To read about the Jews or the Pharisees is to learn the Bible story. To allow that reading to help us reflect on our walk with God is part of the Bible’s gift to us. So, read well! 

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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