Biblically Literate. Spiritually Desolate.
John 5:39 “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.
The Jewish leaders were profoundly capable of reading the Scriptures and they carried them around in their hands so that people would know how educated and literate they were. They were able to quote long texts from memory and they believed that their knowledge of the word of God would lead them to eternal life. The sad truth is that they became consumed by the Scriptures themselves believing they would be their source of eternal life, instead allowing the word to lead them to the real source of life.
They were extremely bright individuals who knew the Word, but did not recognize the fulfillment of prophecy, the one who stood right before them. They were literate but spiritually desolate. They undervalued Christ because they overvalued themselves, rejecting him because they thought they were too smart for him.
John Wesley encourages us to search the Scriptures as a means of grace. It is the Scriptures that are not an end to themselves but are a channel of God’s grace that leads us to the Messiah. This is what the religious leaders did not understand. They could quote long passages and yet they were missing the point that they were to “search the scriptures” because in searching — they would find what they needed!
The word which has been translated as “search” actually means to seek diligently or anxiously. It’s the same language that Homer used when describing the lioness whose little ones have been taken by the enemy. There is an intense and anxious search until the little ones are found. The mother doesn’t focus on the journey but on what will be found at the end of the journey. Just so, we are to anxiously and intensely search the Scriptures as a means of grace that leads us to our Messiah. When the Scriptures are searched in this way, then the Scriptures testify on behalf of Jesus! When we seek him, we will find him — but we must truly and earnestly seek him.
This Christmas season we can enjoy all kinds of festivities and events to celebrate the coming of the Messiah. We can know all the songs and recite parts of the Christmas story. The house can be decorated and the presents wrapped under the tree but if none of these lead us to Christ, himself, we are lost.
Just as the Scriptures become channels of God’s grace to humanity so can the activities of this season. This, however, will only be possible if we don’t focus on where we are in the journey, but anxiously and diligently search for the true meaning behind all the “stuff.”
Too many people who call themselves Christians will celebrate this season as Biblically literate, but spiritually desolate. We may be just as guilty as those religious leaders of the past.
Only when we get to know the Christ of Christmas will we be transformed by his holy love. This is when the Christmas story comes to life, not in the book, but in you and me.
Lord, thank you for the revelation of you that we discover in your word. Amen.