A young man asked me this morning how he could find out more about the Easter story – where was it written in the Bible?
I told him to read the story in the Gospels – in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I said that there are four versions of the story – all similar but all slightly different.
He looked confused.
‘Which one is the true one?’ he asked.
I said that they are all true.
‘But how can they ALL be true?’ he asked, ‘if they are ALL different?’
Now that’s a good question.
The Bible is full of truth and I want to encourage you to dive in and start reading it. But it’s also confusing and confounding.
There is so much controversy about the Bible. What if it says one thing in this verse and the opposite in another?
Can we look to it to as an authority on how to live our lives today? Or is it hopelessly anachronistic and incomprehensible?
About a year ago, some friends and I decided to stop arguing about the Bible, to stop debating our favourite and least favourite verses and to simply READ it.
We’ve been doing this every Wednesday evening for an hour and a half and have now read almost half of the entire Bible.
This has been an interesting experience. Sometimes we have come away from our readings feeling uplifted and inspired. At other times, we have felt confused and disturbed.
The Bible is full of all kinds of different writings – from narrative history to genealogies, to law books, to poetry and proverbs, to prophetic oracles and riddles, to parables, sermons, letters and strange visions of ‘the end times.’
And the wonderful thing is that God speaks to us through all these writings.
Through all these completely human and flawed writings. Because the words of the Bible are written by real human beings who seek to tell us something of their encounters with God, their struggles with God. And this testimony is powerful.
This morning at Church we read the whole of Matthew Chapters 26 and 27 – which are Matthew’s account of the betrayal and arrest of Jesus.
To understand why Jesus had to die, it is not enough to accept or reject various different theological hypotheses. It is to enter into the story yourself and allow God to show you its truth – both the truth that you need to hear personally and particularly and also the truth that speaks to the whole world.
Peter swears he would sooner die than deny Jesus. And yet he denies Jesus three times ‘before the cock crows.’ Jesus asks his disciples three times in the Garden of Gethsemane to stay awake with him in his hour of need and yet three times they disappoint him. Pilate asks the crowd three times what he should do with Jesus. And three times they reply, ‘Let him be crucified…His blood be on us.’
Knowing the story, entering into the story, helps us to understand why the Bible has sustained people in their faith for many centuries.
We cannot read the story of Holy Week without being confronted by our own denial of Jesus, our own betrayal. Fearful like Peter, lazy like the sleeping disciples, indifferent like Pilate – we all say no to Jesus. And we stand by, as Jesus gives up his life for us on the Cross.
It’s only then that we begin to see who He is. ‘Truly this man was God’s son,’ says a Centurion after Jesus’ death.
By being witnesses, by reading the story – we start to see and experience its truth first hand.
So, this Easter, make sure you read the story.
Posted by Martine Oborne