Resurrection and Bible Reading
Each year at Easter Christians throughout the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection is at the very heart of the gospel message. In fact, C. S. Lewis observed that for the earliest Christians, to preach Christianity meant primarily to preach the resurrection: “The resurrection is the central theme in every Christian sermon reported in the Acts. The resurrection and its consequences were the ‘gospel,’ or good news which Christians brought.”
The resurrection changes everything in history, but I want to focus here on just one of those “consequences,” namely, how should the resurrection of Jesus affect the way people read the Bible?
The answer to that question begins with the risen Jesus himself. In Luke 24, a few days after Jesus rose from the dead, he met some of his disciples in an upper room. There he gave them a brief lesson on what the Bible is all about. He began, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms” (verse 44). Scholars agree that when Jesus spoke of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms, he was using familiar shorthand to describe the entire Bible (of course, the New Testament was not yet written).
A few moments later Jesus continued: “This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name” (verses 46-47). According to the risen Jesus, the entire Bible is about him: his death, his resurrection, and how the news of his death and resurrection will be preached by his people for all time, in all places, to all people.
If we seek to follow the lead of the risen Jesus and read the Bible in light of what he has accomplished, there are at least three implications that stand out.
First, if the resurrection really happened, that means the Bible is news about what God has done, not advice about what you must do. If there were no resurrection then the Bible would basically be like most other religious texts, giving suggestions to its followers about what they should do if they want to be right with the god or gods of that religion. It is true that the Bible contains guidance for how Christians are meant to live in the world. But what makes the Bible unique is that it is not primarily giving advice or moral maxims or inspirational fables. Instead, the Bible is first and foremost a record of what God has done, how God has faithfully kept his promises, most ultimately demonstrated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Reading the Bible in light of the resurrection means coming to the Bible first to see Jesus and what he accomplished for you.
A second implication of reading the Bible in light of the resurrection is that we read the Bible rightly when we read it from “back to front.” Any lover of good detective stories knows what I mean by this. My family loved watching the detective series, “Monk.” At the climactic moment, Monk came forward and proceeded to seamlessly connect the clues that had been given throughout the show, weaving them together into a coherent and airtight narrative. To rightly make sense of the earlier parts of the story, we needed to know what happened at the end.
The resurrection of Jesus means reading the Bible is a bit like watching a good detective show. Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection is the “aha moment” of the entire story of the Bible. Without it, we’re left wondering how all the disparate parts of the Bible fit together.
There’s one more implication to draw out about reading the Bible in light of the resurrection: we read the Bible in relationship with the living Christ. As we read Scripture and soak ourselves in the truth of the Bible, we do so in union with the risen Christ. Jesus lives, and he lives in his people. That means Bible reading is not a flat, static experience where you merely acquire information, but is, instead, a living encounter with the risen Christ, as Christ guides his people through the power of the Spirit.
Back to Luke 24: The risen Jesus showed two of his disciples that the whole Bible was about him, and then he vanished from their sight. They exclaimed, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us and opened the Scriptures to us?” (verse 32). That’s what Bible reading in light of the resurrection can produce: hearts burning with hope and wonder as you encounter the living Christ in the pages of Scripture.
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