Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Reading the Bible in the Dark
After Three Days? Third Day? Yeshua and Passover
I used to enjoy reading the Bible. It used to be a simple pleasure to sit quietly, sipping a cup of coffee or tea and to immerse myself in the narrative; to experience, at least to some small degree, the lives of the men and women who had encountered God in a very special way.
I suppose, like most people, I took the Bible at face value or at least perceived it through the lens of my faith in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ (Yeshua HaMashiach), our Lord. When I became involved in the "Messianic movement", I felt like my knowledge of what that wonderful narrative was saying became deeper and a rich tapestry of comprehension had been spread out before me.
What did I know?
As Derek describes in his blog post, I am one of those over-literalist types and a member of the Wednesday or Thursday crucifixion crowd. From my understanding, it didn't make a great deal of sense to try and compact or compress three days into about a day-and-a-half just to make sure that Good Friday stayed Good Friday and that Easter Sunday stayed Easter Sunday. I got the impression that shifting my internal framework on the Messiah to favor Pesach (Passover) freed me from having to perform a lot of theological and literary gymnastics.
Then I read Derek's blog this morning and it reminded me that we can never take the Word of God at face value. Anymore, I feel like reading the Bible is like walking into a room full of trap doors and land mines. Everything seems quiet and innocent, but one wrong move and you're either dropped into a pit full of poison spikes or blown into the middle of next week.
But what do I know?
Every Passover, my congregation conducts a public Seder. As part of our service, I read aloud from the latter portion of Chapter 16: One Long Day in D. Thomas Lancaster's King of The Jews. It is an hour by hour description, based on the Gospel of Mark, of the day of the crucifixion, from 9.a.m. until Seder night after the Master is entombed.
It's a very moving sequence, at least for me, and the people attending our Seder are often captured by the lived retelling of the sacrifice of our own "Passover lamb". It's a stark reminder of what he did for us and how we should experience the Seder, fully realizing and even "feeling" that we have been "passed over" by death because the Lamb of God has taken our place.
In last Monday's blog, I went "book shopping" and last night, I settled on a couple of books to read on the subject of the deity of Jesus. This is yet another topic that can't be taken for granted (and in my case, I haven't been), yet it is a belief from which many Christians and Messianics draw a great deal of meaning and truth.
I'm not saying I don't believe in education or gaining a deeper understanding of what the Bible is trying to tell us, but it seems as if having a straightforward view of the Bible and experiencing a simple faith is no longer possible. Once you cross some sort of invisible line, you can't "trust" the Word or faith anymore. You can't look at either one (at least I can't) without wondering what sort of mask they're wearing today (and given this particular revelation, I wonder how the Bereans ever managed...they must have been scriptural geniuses).
While pursuing "hidden truths" may be exciting for some, I'd just like to be able to open the Bible and believe that what I can read and understand in its pages is what it's really telling me.
Of course my struggles are my struggles and they start and end with me, but I can't help wondering about the legion of "ordinary people" out there who read the Bible, trust what their Pastors and Sunday School teachers say about the Bible, and move through it's pages with innocent and uncomplicated assurance that the English words mean exactly what they seem to mean.
Why does understanding God, at least on a very basic level, have to be so hard? Why should you have to approach the Bible each morning as if you're preparing to write a thesis for a Master's Degree? If the Gospel is supposed to be the "Good News", how can we know for sure, unless we consult theologians and scholars who can interpret every single "jot and tittle" for us? If the "Good News of Jesus Christ" is really so complicated and cryptic, how can anyone find that simple, comforting faith?
This is in no way a criticism or Derek Leman, his blog, educated people, scholars, or theologians. This is just my way of saying "ouch" after stubbing my toe on another unseen rock while traveling down the road in the dark.
The road is long and often, we stumble in the dark...