Perhaps the most consistent criticism Jesus faced in His earthly ministry was working on the Sabbath. Throughout the gospels we read that Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, strengthened the legs of the crippled, cast out demons, and performed all kinds of miracles on the Sabbath. Whenever He performed such deeds, the religious leaders of His day accused Him of breaking the 4th Commandment’s injunction not to work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11). In the eyes of Jesus’ critics, all work was forbidden on the Sabbath including healing the sick. To their way of thinking, Jesus couldn’t be a Godly man if He constantly flaunted the command not to work on the Sabbath.
Mark 3:1-6 is a fine example of this scenario. It was another Sabbath day and Jesus went to the synagogue to worship. The religious folk of his day were chomping at the bits because a man with a withered hand was there as well. They knew Jesus well enough to know that He would not let the opporunity pass to heal this poor fellow. When He healed the man, they would spring the trap by pointing out Jesus’ complete lack of regard for Scritpure. Jesus would be exposed for the fraud He was before all those who ‘truly’ loved God and the Ten Commandments. (Read the story and you’ll see how Jesus turned the tables on His enemies.)
You and I look with disdain upon the religious leaders and their lack of concern for a crippled man. We cast dispersions upon them as they seek ways to attack, accuse, and plot against the Son of God in His compassion for the sick. We even mock them for their hard-nosed abuse of the 4th Commandment. We cry out, “What were they thinking!?” How could they possibly think that God was opposed to Jesus’ healing someone on the Sabbath.
Before we tear those hypocritical, unbelieving leaders to shreds, we might want to take a step back to examine their thought processes as they sought to understand and interpret the Bible. I suggest that if you boiled their interpretive model to its simplest form, they might easily say, “This is what Exodus 20:8-11 says to me.”
Have you ever been in a Bible study setting where different ideas and interpretations are flowing around the table? It’s almost inevitable that someone will say, “This is what the Bible means to me” and to that person, the matter is settled. The notion of a personal interpretive model approach to understanding the Bible is common in our day. Accompanied by such statements as, “There are many ways to interpret Scritpure,” or “You can interpret the Bible however you want,” or even “So-and-so (a favorite Bible teacher) puts it this way,” individuals find their comfort zone in Biblical interpretation.
While it’s true there are many interpretive models that can be helpful in leading us to understand the Bible and rightly apply it to our lives, we must be careful how we use those models. There is great danger in allowing the way we interpret Scripture to become Scripture itself. We are on very thin ice when the, “What it means to me” model becomes our default position.
How often do we hear, or even say these words, “What the Bible says to me….” as if this phrase settles the argument or gives validity to someone’s notion of the message of God’s Word? When you look at the Sabbath healing work of Jesus, He really did not have much use for, “What the Bible says to me” interpretation of Scripture, did He?
Scripture isn’t a ‘silly putty’ substance we mold to our liking or circumstances. It is God’s rock-solid Word. We don’t shape the Word of God. God through His perfect Word shapes us. Faithful interpretation of the Bible isn’t always easy. We have to corral our feelings so they don’t get the better of us. Through the centuries God has given wise teachers to guide our thoughts. He lets us feel the power, majesty, and authenticity of His Word. Yet, we must submit to His Word rather than attempt to make His Word submit to our notions and desires. In the end, “what the Bible means to me” must submit and align with what the Bible means to God. Anything less is a feeble attempt to exalt ourselves and in so doing, minimize the life and work of Jesus Christ.
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