I think we are afraid of this book sometimes.
This book that was written over the course of 16 centuries, by 40 or more authors from every walk of life, from the lowest to the highest in society and contains 66 separate books within it. This book originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek but now has been translated into over 1,300 different languages. This book that speaks about ancient cultures far removed from the post-modern western society we live in but still somehow speaks about the same tragic human condition and failure that every person faces no matter the time or place. Maybe if were not exactly afraid of it, more than likely we are overwhelmed by it. There is so much in this book that it can make us wonder, where do I start and what do I do with it?
And if that isn’t enough to be daunting in our efforts to read this book. There is so much controversy swirling around about what the Bible says or doesn’t say on topics like homosexuality, abortion, the relationships between women and men and how they play out in the home, church and society, to just name a few. But, with all of the controversy and people yelling at each other, I’m never really sure that people have actually read the book that they are fighting over or if they are simply taking out passages they like or don’t like and are not actually reading the whole story. Unfortunately, all of the controversy can stop people from actually reading the book because they just assume they know what it means so they don’t actually have to read it.
But at the same time, we Christians are considered people of the book. This book. This Bible. What does that mean for you and me? Is it something to be afraid of? Is it something that people should use to beat each other over the head with? Is it something we should simply place on an altar and revere? If the Bible is not meant to be used in any of these ways, what am I supposed to use it for?
We see in our Gospel reading today from Luke 24:13-35, two of Jesus’ disciples leaving Jerusalem on the road to Emmaus. It has been three days after Jesus’ crucifixion and they are lost and confused. Their heads are filled with questions and problems. They had a lot of plans for Jesus, they thought He was a prophet of great power sent from God. They saw their religious leaders, the people they were suppose to be able to trust connive and scheme and succeed in killing Jesus on a Roman cross no less, the Romans who were the Jews oppressors! They thought Jesus was going to free Israel from Rome, but now he was dead. But most puzzling of all, some of the women disciples said they saw visions of angels telling them Jesus was alive. They had problems and questions, but notice what they were not doing, they were not reading the Bible. Instead, their thoughts were simply bouncing around in their own heads apart from God’s Word and their feet were walking away from the whole Jesus thing.
Then a stranger comes up to them, you and me, we know this is Jesus, but they don’t recognize him. Why? Because they never really knew who Jesus was and who he was promised to be. The Resurrected Jesus, who was the fulfillment of God’s promises in the Bible was a stranger to them. They thought they knew Him, but what they knew were their own desires and plans for Jesus not who Jesus really was.
So what did Jesus do but have a Bible Study with them! Jesus taught them from the Bible all about who Jesus was. How he came from God and was God, why He was born-suffered-died and rose from the dead. How it was all done for them so through faith God would make them and all of creation new. It had always been there, in the Bible, but they had been reading the Bible without Jesus. Their hearts began to burn within them, they finally saw Jesus in the Bible. This stranger who had opened up the Bible to them was now becoming a friend that they wanted to spend time and share a meal with. They didn’t know it then, but in the breaking of the bread, just like Jesus broke the bread when He instituted the Lord’s Supper, their eyes were opened and they saw Jesus.
The Bible is meant to show us Jesus and we are meant to see the Bible through Jesus.
The Bible shows us God’s gracious and loving promises for all of creation and His condemnation and judgment against sin, death and the devil. All finding their fulfillment in Jesus and pointing us towards the day when God’s work will be finished and all things will be made new through Jesus.
Just like the disciples on the road to Emmaus we hear how each generation has struggled with God’s promises in Jesus, sometimes getting it right by the grace of God and many times getting it spectacularly wrong and the tragic consequences that followed. But throughout God’s promises in Jesus have always remained the same. The Bible is in our hands now and we want to see Jesus! But if we take the Bible and leave it on a dusty shelf, use it as a club to beat other people with or if we take ourselves away from church and bible study where God’s Word is taught then Jesus remains a stranger to us. Like any relationship we need to be with the person, to hear them and spend time with them, to let our relationship with them grow.
Then to our great surprise, the Bible becomes less of something we are afraid of or intimidated by and more of a journey that Jesus is traveling with us. Our hearts begin to burn within us and we are led to the places where Jesus promises to meet us: in His Word, in the breaking of the bread at the Lord’s Table and in the waters of Holy Baptism.
Christians are people of the book. It times for us to go away from soundbytes and clichés about the Bible and for us to know the whole story of who the Bible is all about. You will be challenged, but would you expect not to be when the living God is renewing all of creation and placing a claim upon your life? Of course, we will be challenged, changed and called to a life of greater service and of greater love. But what else would you expect from the living God who is making all things new in Jesus? The Bible brings heart and mind together, as we learn, discover and grow. Feel your hearts begin to burn as fresh and new insights into the lives we are called to live are revealed to us. It is time to read the Bible for all its worth because we want to see Jesus.