(Boring) Bible Reading
What explains your experience more: you open the Bible, read some verses, you shut the Bible and carry on with life; or, you open the Bible, read some verses, burn with joy, shut the Bible and carry on with life transformed?
I would suspect that most of us, unfortunately, would choose the former experience as what’s more frequent in our lives. But why? If the Bible is God’s Word – supernatural in nature – why can so many of us, who call ourselves Christians, leave our Bible reading with no more than a light encouragement?
It’s because we can read the Bible the wrong way. And what’s the outcome of reading the Bible this way? We leave bored.
But, there’s a way to read the Bible that causes our hearts to burn. Let me explain.
The Emmaus Experience
Historical records tell us that on the third day after Jesus died, some women went to his grave with some spices – probably as a way to anoint his body. When they got there, they were surprised to not see Jesus (or his corpse) at all, but two angels. These angels told them that Jesus was not dead and that he had risen.
In great excitement, they rushed back to their friends and explained what happened. Their friends didn’t believe them and brushed it off. Two of those friends, who had originally travelled to Jerusalem to see Jesus, discouragingly started their journey home to Emmaus.
As they were talking with one another, Jesus stealthily crept up to them – hiding himself so they didn’t know who he was. Jesus asked them, “What are you guys talking about?” Astonished that he didn’t know, they began to explain to him how they had hoped this “Jesus” was the one to save them.
After their explanation, Jesus (still hiding himself from them) said something profound: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25) Jesus then had a Bible study with these guys, explaining to them all the places in the Scriptures (which was just the Old Testament at the time) that talked about Jesus, his death, and resurrection.
They were gripped. Bewildered. Fascinated. They’d heard nothing like this before!
When they approached Emmaus, they invited Jesus to stay with them that night. He agreed. When they sat down to begin eating, Jesus revealed his identity and then immediately vanished. These two disciples then said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32)
Bible Reading on Fire
This story is incredible. So, what can we glean from this historical account to help us read the Bible with a heart-burning effect? I can think of two ingredients, found in this story, that can help us.
Firstly, read to understand; understand to believe. When we read the Bible – whether in Leviticus or 2 Corinthians – we should be reading with the intent to understand what’s being said. Yes, we believe in many things in life without understanding them completely, but how much more would we believe if we understood the reason?
Think of it this way: every time you open your Bible to read, your end goal should be to believe. How do you get there? By understanding why and who and how to believe! Remember Jesus’ accusation to the two disciples, “…slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”
Don’t read the Bible to “read the Bible.” Read the Bible to understand the Bible and understand the Bible to believe the Bible.
Secondly, keep Christ at the centre. Remember, Jesus took these guys through the Scriptures – Scriptures that they’d be very familiar with! – to teach them that they’re all about him, especially his death and resurrection. Sure, the stories in the Bible bare significance on their own and certainly encourage us, but we must recognize that there’s a deeper meaning. All of the Old Testament authors were writing for the revealing and purpose of Christ.
I believe these two ingredients in Bible reading can bring the heart-burning effect that our two discouraged disciples felt on the road to Emmaus. And although we don’t have Jesus stealthily creeping up on us and interpreting the Scriptures to us, we have the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) and faithful pastors (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
Let’s stop reading the Bible for the sake of reading the Bible! Let’s light our hearts ablaze by reading to understand and understanding to believe – all the while with Christ at the centre of the story.