You have heard a Gideon tell stories about those who pick up a Gideon Bible while in some distress, read it and accept Christ as their personal Savior. The story proclaims the power of the Bible. Or, you may have heard a preacher talk about a shepherd who was given a Bible and read it while tending his sheep. When he was done he knew what he needed to do to become a Christian. In other words, it’s simple. Yes, as a start. However, where that start takes the person is another matter.
Many of us were told the Bible “meant what it said, and said what it meant.” No questions need be asked, just do what it said and you’d be saved. Anyone who read what it said and didn’t arrive at the same meaning as you, was wrong. There can only be one right meaning. But what if what it said was not what it meant? What if the meaning of the word in one time meant something different in another time? Even better, what if the story (parable) was understood differently by those who heard it and those who would read it centuries later?
Think of how hard it is to convince people that the “talent” as in the parable of the talents, has nothing to do with using one’s natural ability. But that the word “talent” is a translated word for a sum of money. It is about what one thinks of God, not how one uses God-given ability.
In the last few weeks, having read something, I have been looking deeper into the historical and culture meaning of things in the Bible. I am convinced, that while there is enough to start one on the journey of Christianity, help is needed to grow in wisdom and understanding. Hence the meaning of “disciple” or “learner” or more to our understanding, “student.”
It is easy to say if we just love God and our neighbor as ourselves we have fulfilled the law and the prophets. But when the lawyer asked Jesus who was his neighbor, it was illegitimate question. It was a question disgusted in the synagogue each time that scroll was read. (By the way, during the synagogue service when there was a reading of scripture, there was then a discussion about it.) All sides would be examined. They did not say it said what it meant and meant what it said.
Take for example the “neighbor” question. Certainly the law of Moses had said the neighbor should be loved. But did that mean the inhabitants of Jericho, and the other cities wiped out by the Israelites? “Neighbor,” at the time the law was given had a more narrow definition than it did after Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan. (If we can believe they listened to him.) James and John had just suggested letting them call down fire on the Samaritans who had just tossed Jesus and them out of their city. (Lk 9:54)
Today, while still struggling with who the neighbor is, because of Jesus and the meaning of the gospel as seen in the life of Paul and the church, we know it means anyone, especially those in need.
Let’s look at another one. When Jesus was preaching the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:17 ff, he said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” What did he mean? The answer is generally that Jesus kept the Law in every way, every way. But for example, we see him not keeping it when it came touching lepers and other unclean people. So what do we do with that? We try to understand it as it was understood by those who heard Jesus say it.
To do that we have to dig into Jewish culture at the time. This can be done with the blessing of the internet. If you really want to understand Jewish thinking, go to A. J. Levine, a New Testament and Jewish scholar at Vanderbilt. You don’t have to agree with her to learn from her. She is among a number of scholars who have studied the history of Jewish though. Here’s what they say about Matthew 5:17ff. In the synagogue and other places of teaching and learning, when a participant has misrepresented the Law in some way in the eyes of another, he would say, “You are destroying (or abolishing) the Law!” When a participant said something which highlighted the intent of the Law in another’s eyes, the person would say, “What you have said fulfills the Law!”
So it would be possible for those discussing the Law to have different views as to what it meant. The word “fulfill” had nothing to do with literally keeping every aspect of the Law, but whether the listener believed it was or was not “fulfilling” the intent of the Law. Therefore, Jesus is not saying he will keep every part of the Law, but that what he does fulfills the intent of the Law.
Why is something like that important? Because in knowing what the original intent of the words were, keeps the reader from formulating a twisted understanding about how Jesus could keep the Law while seeming to break it. It also answers the question of when he fulfilled it. It was not nailed to the cross when he died. It was fulfilled in the way he lived it.
When someone says Jesus broke the law, someone hurries to say he didn’t because of the Matthew passage. What Jesus was saying, and they understood, even if they didn’t agree, was that his actions fulfilled the intent of the Law.
The Jews didn’t have one solid understanding of the Law. They read it, and then reasoned about how to apply it. Adultery and divorce were problems. They agreed on that. But they argued about what constituted a valid reason for divorce. Jesus said, “Don’t even think about it.”
The same was true of the Sabbath. They knew it was to be kept, but how? So they made a list of things that could or could not be done on the Sabbath. Those items became the Law. If we say Jesus never broke the Law, only the interpretation of the Law, we miss the point. The interpretation is the Law, i.e., the “fulfillment” of the Law.
It may always mean what it says, but for it to do that, we need help in understanding what it actually means.
CONCERNS: Tolly Nicklas, Leena Bolin’s cousin, is in rapidly failing health. Gary Overstreet is now at home. Steve Gaynor’s sister, Betty, suffered a broken hip and had surgery. This is a setback in her recovery from a fall and a stroke. Melisha Scruggs asks prayers for a co-worker named Jeanie, who has a child with multiple health issue. Remember also Jim White’s mother, Carol Jones, Sheila Jansen and daughter, Amber Weaver. Marjorie Wilson, Melanie Gentry, Wayne Phlegar, Ray & Darnel Barns, Gil Richardson, Jim and Mary Smith and Tim Elder.
OUR DAILY BREAD: JUNE 19-24
Monday: John 8:21-27
Tuesday: Luke 22:14-30
Wednesday: Luke 12:13-34
Thursday: Psalm 51:1-9
Friday: Acts 4:2–5:11
Saturday: Psalm 99:1-9, 100:1-5
OUR DAILY BREAD: JUNE 26-7/1
Monday: John 17:1-26
Tuesday: Revelation 19:1-16
Wednesday: Luke 16:19-31
Thursday: Matthew 9:1-13
Friday: I Corinthians 10:1-13
Saturday: Psalm 105:1-48
Today’s service will consist of Mike Branch’s experiences while on a humanitarian mission in the Sudan. We have been looking forward to this since he returned. Some who are unable to be here have asked that it be filmed. It will be made available when they return. Thanks to James Downing for the camera work and the finished product.
On this Father’s Day we wish each father a great day with family and friends.
As always, Super Sunday falls on Father’s Day. We hope as many of you as possible will be able to stay for the Super Sunday meal following the service today. If by chance you are a visitor, please consider yourself our guest.
TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME
The local baseball team associated with the Boston Red Sox, is having a Faith Night at the ball park on July 29th.
There will be music and other family oriented entertainment. T-shirts will be given away to the first 1000 folks to arrive. The gates will open at 5:00 P. M.
General admission tickets for that night will be $6.00 and $8.00 for box seats.
A flyer will be made available next week for those who want to sign up for games tickets.
THE RESCUE MISSION
Remember the Rescue Mission is asking for donations of school items for children whose family can’t afford to buy them. The information is on the table in the foyer.