It is so interesting to sit and read Scripture with others and discover, as we read, that we can easily import into the passage something the Biblical author wasn’t communicating. It isn’t that the thoughts we import are necessarily (or always) unbiblical or heretical. Still, we can let our already-in-our-mind thoughts cloud what the author intended to communicate.
As I read with others, I’ve noticed that this often happens when we are reading Gospel passages–probably because of the familiarity so many have with what we encounter in the Gospels. One notable way I see this is when reading an account of a miracle. Almost invariably, the conclusion drawn from the account is “Jesus did [this miracle] to show that He is God.”
Now while it is true that Jesus is God, an attentive reading of the Gospel accounts of His miracles might not support that conclusion. How do I come to that observation? Only by looking carefully at how those who were there when Jesus performed the miracle responded.
One example can help clarify the idea: Jesus’ healing of the paralytic recounted in Mark 2:1–12. (It would benefit you to stop reading this blog post and read that account right now!)
There is so much in this account that warrants some attention. What gave rise to the great crowd that was there? Why are the religious leaders there? What would it have taken for the friends to dig their way through the roof to lower their friend down before Jesus? Although Jesus did initially pronounce the paralyzed man forgiven, was He intending all along to heal the man as well? (If we were walking through this account in a face-to-face discussion of the miracle, I’d enjoy wrestling with all of those questions!) But here’s what is worth noting: How did those, who were there in the moment, respond to the miracle?
[Jesus] said to the paralytic, “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” (Mark 2:10–12)
Did you notice? Those who were there did respond. They were amazed. They saw what happened with their own eyes. And “they were glorifying God.” They neither glorified or praised Jesus directly, nor did they draw the conclusion (in the moment) that Jesus was God incarnate. In fact, in explaining what He was going to do, Jesus had referred to Himself as “the Son of Man” who had delegated authority. (And the title “Son of Man,” although rich with implications, is not a direct claim to divinity; it is the way God repeatedly addressed the prophet Ezekiel.) Apparently, neither Jesus nor those in that place at that time ended up driving to the conclusion that Jesus was God.
So, when we come to a passage like this with our understanding that Jesus is, in truth, God come in the flesh and read that into the moment, we might miss what was happening–what Jesus intended to communicate by doing what He did and what the Gospel author wanted us to understand in how he recounted the moment.
Here’s the encouragement: Try and read Gospel passages with an eye on what those, in the moment, saw and heard and concluded–holding your already-formed (and, perhaps true, conclusions) loosely.
(If you’d like a little more practice in reading the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ miracles, join us for an online class coming up on the evening October 24. Details and registration information can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/not-for-show-the-miracles-of-jesus-tickets-722754085927?aff=oddtdtcreator)