I’ve learned not to trust the words, “I know a shortcut.”
I was at a friend’s house to pick up a meal she had made, but wasn’t able to deliver. The house where it needed to be delivered was miles away through the hills. Then came those unreliable words.
But I know a shortcut.
I trusted my friend. I really did. The directions she gave me that cut straight where my route twisted and turned sounded promising. But when I got to the landmarks, they didn’t look like she had described. So I missed my turn. Or maybe it was the barrier blocking the left turn I was supposed to make, forcing me to turn right instead. Or perhaps it was the street sign that had been knocked over by a truck at some earlier date.
The meal had turned cold and spilled a little by the time I got back to my friend’s house. I had considered eating it myself to hide the evidence, but I didn’t have a fork.
Fortunately, she was still home. I told her my sad story and we were laughing by the end of it. And then she said something wonderful.
Why don’t I come with you and show you the way?
Opening the Bible
What is your first question when you open your Bible?
For most of us it is What does this part say about me? Before I pounce on that statement and say all that’s wrong with it, let’s admit that it’s true and in some ways, it’s natural. Sin has turned us inward, causing us to be preoccupied with ourselves. But sin has also brought many problems into our lives. Suffering. Sickness. Conflict. Futility. Frustration. Guilt. Shame. To name a few.
It’s natural that we would come to the Bible preoccupied with some problem that looms large. But if our problem is the first question we bring, we won’t understand God’s message in that passage.
To counteract our self-centered approach, some teachers will slap us on the hand and scold, “The Bible isn’t about you, dummy, it’s about God!!!” (I exaggerate for emphasis.) Chastened, we toss our questions into a closet or the trash and ask, What does this part say about God? We’re afraid to pull out our “me” question again.
The problem with this either/or approach is that it can put a wall between me and God. And it ultimately leaves me with a wrong view of God. If my concerns are of no importance to him, then the words about his seeking and saving love begin to sound untrue. Satan’s lie that God only cares about himself sounds more plausible.
We need a reliable guide when we open our Bible. And we have one.
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
When we learn that the Scriptures are all about Jesus, we not only have an interpretive key to the Bible, we have an interpretive key to our lives.
Because of the incarnation, Jesus has taken our flesh not just for a period of 33 years, but forever. When he died, he died physically. When he was raised, his body was raised, too. Ascending, his physical body arose into the sky. And we’ve been told he will come back in the same way. We will see him, because he will still be clothed in our flesh.
As the God-man, Jesus is the one Mediator between God and man. I picture him extending one hand to God in the perfect relationship of the Trinity, and extending the other hand to us, in the perfect record of his righteous life and atoning death.
But Jesus is not just the mediator of our salvation, he is also the mediator of our Bible study. As God made visible, he helps us to understand both the character of the invisible God and his actions in history. As Man who suffered temptation but never sinned, he helps us to understand both our sin and our suffering.
I picture Jesus extending one hand in gesture to God, “See? This is what God is like.” And I picture him extending one hand toward us, “Look at me. This is what you were created to be, and what I will restore you to become by my blood and Spirit.” How will we see him in the Bible?
He has sent his Spirit to get in the car and show us the way.
Interpreting Our Lives
In Chapter 9 we learned that Jesus is the hero of the whole Bible. In Chapter 10, we learn how to see him as the hero of the passage we are studying.
Fortunately, we’re ready to see him. The ingredients we prepped in Chapter 8 — our observations about God and people–turn out to be the very ones we need for seeing Jesus. Jesus brings our observations about God from the page to the screen, from black and white to living color. Jesus brings our observations about the people in the passage into proper perspective. He is the True Hero, the Villain’s Foil, the Sin Bearer, and the Innocent Sufferer.
As we practiced using our 8 shortcuts from Chapter 10 on the book of Philemon, we found that it helped us see the saving work of Jesus fleshed out in the lives of Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus. Instead of seeing Paul as the hero we have to try to emulate, we saw Paul as one who had been changed by Jesus. Everything he did or said in the letter was the fruit of that saving transformation.
Seeing Jesus helped us interpret our lives as well as the passage. If Jesus could do that in Paul, he can do it in me.