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As we learn new things, we make connections with what we already know. That is, new stuff has the best chance of making sense if we already have some mental anchors to hang it on.

That doesn’t mean, however, that having those anchors, we will necessarily make those connections. Sometimes, the new is such a challenge to what we think we already know that we find it hard–maybe even impossible–to put the old with the new. And we end up holding on to what we think we know, what we are already comfortable with, and reject the new.

This happened in Jesus’ ministry . . . often. And I sometimes find myself stumbling over the freshness and newness of what he is saying in my journey with him as well.

This is evident in a question Jesus asked. It’s another example of how Jesus used questions to stir good thinking in the minds and hearts of his hearers. Speaking to some quite religious and well-informed Jews, Jesus posed them a question when they were in the process of resisting what he was saying.

“For if you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46-47)

Those he was talking with had some “old stuff” already stored away in their theological cupboard. They knew some of the things they had read “in Moses.” That is, they were familiar with the Old Testament books written by Moses–the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible.

Jesus tells them that there are things in those writings that point to and talk about him. (That would be a great Bible study, but something we won’t be able to unpack in this short post!) But they were not believing–they were not allowing Moses’ writing to really shape the way they were pursuing life. As a result, they were not allowing what they knew of the writings of Moses to open the door to what Jesus was saying. They could have built on what they knew . . . if only they believed what they read. They could have built on what they knew . . . and what Jesus’ was saying would have made sense. They would have responded to Jesus appropriately!

It seems to me that Jesus is doing two things in asking this question. First, Jesus is willing to build on what they already are familiar with. He doesn’t start from where they’re not (except to note that they aren’t believing what they have already read in Moses!). The second thing implied in the question is that the things they had been reading in Moses should have been part of their believing–not merely part of their informed thinking. Scripture has been given to us by God to draw us to faith, to believing him, to trusting him. It is not merely for amassing a wealth of knowledge about “religious stuff.”

So I wonder how this question would come to me. How might Jesus ask me, ask us, the same sort of question.

“If you believed what you read in the Gospels, you would really trust me, you would rely on me. But if you do not believe what you read there, how will you ever come to trust me?”

“If you really trusted in what you have heard about me and my death for you, you would depend on me deeply, daily. But if you do not take to heart and accept what you read there, how will you ever experience the kind of dependent and faith-filled life I want for you?”

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One Comment

  1. I love the challenging and thought provoking posts that you bring up. Wonder what would life look like if we lived how Jesus called us to live? I would say radically different than what it looks like now.


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