We were looking at John 7 last night in our home group bible study and I had some thoughts, especially about how some of what the passage was saying relates to how we come to understand the bible.
Basically, Jesus tells the Jewish religious authorities that they don’t understand him because they’ve got the OT all wrong, especially the law (vs.19). No wonder then that they are upset about him healing on the Sabbath whilst still thinking its ok to circumcise someone on the Sabbath – they don’t understand what the OT laws (like circumcision) were all about and how in actual fact it is Jesus (vs. 23) in his ministry of saving and restoring people who fulfils them (brings to substance what they were all about in shadow form). In other words, they don’t get Jesus because they don’t get what the law was all about. Or perhaps the other way round - because they don't get Jesus by definition they don't get what the law was really all about?
Either way, in an earlier verse Jesus makes it clear that this wasn’t just a failure in understanding however, but more of a moral failure;
Vs. 17: If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own.
That is, they don’t want to do what God says, that’s why they don’t realise who Jesus is and instead think he’s a law-breaker. Their disobedient hearts prevent them from reading the law and discerning in Jesus the God-sent fulfilment of it and not a breach of it.
Now that all might sound a bit complicated but what I think it amounts to is this;
Our wills are the most important factor in understanding the bible. Whether we want to disobey or obey God will make the crucial difference between whether we understand the bible or not.
Or we could put it another way. If we have a problem with the bible we should consider the possibility that the problem is not that the bible is obtuse and unclear, or that we aren’t intelligent enough. The problem might just be that we are sinful.
All of which means we need ongoing the work of God (through Jesus’ death on the cross and rising again to deal with our sin) in our lives if we are to interpret and apply the bible properly and not be like the dreadful legalists of Jesus’ day. Good hermeneutics (the ‘science’ of biblical interpretation) starts with us on our knees at the foot of the cross.