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.
John 5:39-40 ESV
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day held the Scriptures in high esteem. They believed them to be the actual Word of God, spoken into our dark and sinful world. They read the Bible, studied it, applied it, and obeyed it. Everything seemed correct.
Then came Jesus.
Jesus spoke into the world of these studious Jews and shook them to the core. In the midst of their in-depth studying, they missed the forest for the trees. They passionately searched the Bible because they thought that it would lead them to eternal life, to salvation. However, Jesus makes a bold claim. He says that all of Scripture is about Him; therefore, they should come to Him for eternal life.
We must not miss the weight of this encounter. They thought that they were doing everything that God wanted them to do. They read their Bibles every day, had their quiet time, and led Bible studies… or, at least, the first century equivalent of those things. Then Jesus shows up and claims that because they do not acknowledge Jesus as the only source of eternal life, they have completely missed the point.
Does not this mean that there is a wrong way to read and study the Bible? Does this mean that the Bible can be integral in our lives, but we are still no better for it? As Jesus clearly indicates, the answer to both questions is yes.
The Bible is fundamentally and ultimately about Jesus. Thus, when reading Scripture, if we do not see Jesus, then we are reading incorrectly. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day diligently studied Scripture yet did not recognize the embodied Word that spoke to them. They searched for God in His Word, yet God stood right before them unrecognized.
The reading of the Bible is not simply a means of knowing more about God, but rather it is the means of knowing and conforming to His image. The reading of the Bible must result in a deepened relationship with God, not mere information about Him. May our reading of the Bible, therefore, bring us closer to Jesus, the only source of eternal life.