On more than one occasion Jesus asked an intriguing question: “Have you never read?” (See, for example, Matthew 12:3-5 or Mark 12:26.) The grounds for the question is not always identical, but the purpose of Him asking that kind of question seems to be the same each and every time. He wants those who are familiar with the Scriptures to either recall what was actually written or to turn back and take another look. It wouldn’t be enough for those He asked to have a vague sense of what the Scriptures said; He wanted them to give careful attention to what was written.
What is particularly surprising is that those to whom He addresses that kind of question were those who would have been familiar with the Scriptures. He didn’t raise that question with non-Jews, unfamiliar with the Old Testament. It was those who seemed to have a passing familiarity with God’s Word that were invited to think better about what the Scriptures actually say.
One of the greatest joys that rises to the surface in many River classes is the delight that people experience in seeing something new in familiar passages. It is not uncommon to hear someone say, “I never saw that before!” or “Why didn’t I see that?” And of those who make such remarks, the majority of them have more than a passing familiarity with God’s Word. They do know Scripture . . . but perhaps they need to take Jesus’ question to heart.
All too often followers of Jesus can settle for a “general sense” of what the Bible teaches. We content ourselves with “Didn’t Jesus say something like . . .?” We aren’t always attentive to what was written. We aren’t always willing to open the Book, find the passage, read the words, and assure ourselves that we haven’t missed something of importance. We can live as if it will be fine if we just get the gist of what the Word of God says. We can give a passage a quick glance, convinced that we already know enough about what the text says. But such habits of thought and practice might leave us overlooking what God is communicating in His Word.
And that might give rise to Jesus asking us that question: Have you not read? And, perhaps, being mindful of that question, we would give ourselves to a more attentive reading of His Word.