Who gets to say what it says?
Click here for an audio version of this blog post.
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. – Luke 24:13-27
What do you think it says? How do you read it? Jesus actually asked the second question to the young lawyer wanting to justify himself in Luke 10:26. The first question is a somewhat common Bible study question. The idea is to read a passage and then ask people to interpret the passage from their own perspective. That can be effective. It can also be quite dangerous. It’s amazing to me what some people get (or take) from the Bible. Like a friend of mine once said, “Some people look to the Bible to justify their own ideas or beliefs.” Better we should look to the Bible to shape our beliefs and behaviors.
There is no question about who gets to say what it says here in this encounter between Jesus and the Emmaus disciples. He opened their minds to the scriptures and “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” I’m sure it was quite a Bible class session.
I’ve had some amazingly insightful teachers and professors over the years who have opened to me the mysteries and treasures of the Scriptures. Some have been quite well-educated. Many have degrees. Some not only have studied Greek and Hebrew (the languages of the New and Old Testaments), they have taught those languages.
But the best of those is a good friend who recently retired as a professor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. Jeff Gibbs taught a class to a group of pastors by which we simply opened the (Greek) text of the book of Ephesians and read it through. We looked at sentence structure. We tried to capture the progression of thought and logic behind the words and phrases. We did it slowly so we could actually soak in the text itself. We did not once resort to Kittle’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (a 10-volume set of books that has multiple-page word studies on 10 volumes of word in the New Testament). We simply let the text speak for itself.
There’s something to be said for that approach. In fact, it’s where I lean for my Bible interpretation. There are times when a nuance of a word can ignite a new insight, or bring a new facet of God’s word to light. But for me…give me the text. Let me study it. That’s why I use the approach in this blog that I do. I take a 10-15 verse passage and meditate and cogitate on it for a week at a time. I reflect on it again and again. I look at the context. I consider the words. You’ll remember perhaps that yesterday I focused a bit on the word, “all.” And I look for a thought that speaks to me. I certainly don’t try to beat any particular drum…except the Jesus drum. He’s at the center of it all.
That’s his point in opening the Scriptures (that would be the Old Testament) and showing these disciples how the passages referred to him. And Jesus gets to say what they say about him.
Some say that the church ought to interpret Scripture. Others say the individual should interpret Scripture. I say let Scripture interpret Scripture. And Jesus as the Word made flesh is certainly best qualified to enlighten our understanding of what God’s word actually says. Hint, hint…it points to him!