Yesterday I was reading in John chapter 1. The Gospel of John is one of my favorite books in the Bible. Each time that I read it I gain insight, pray differently, and “sense” Christ better. Yesterday did not disappoint. As I was reading in chapter one a verse leapt off of the page. It was John 1:30:
“29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
There was a simple statement that caught me off guard: “because he was before me. I myself did not know him…”
I don’t recall that verse ever striking me before, but it didn’t slip by yesterday. A couple of thoughts sparked. First, John the Baptist was born before Jesus, so the “he was before me,” must refer to rank and authority since Jesus is God the Son. No problem there. It was the next phrase that snared me, “I myself did not know him…” Now wait a minute. John the Baptist and Jesus were cousins. They did know each other. Since Jesus and John didn’t live time zones apart — there was no such thing back then, maybe sun-dial zones apart though — what was being said here? Again, John was referring to more than relational knowledge of his cousin Jesus. He was referring to Jesus’ stature and role as the Messiah. That is given by the context of John declaring Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world in verse 29, and followed by the revelation of Jesus as Messiah to Israel in verse 31. Hermeneutical problem solved.
Before I read further I took some time to ponder why this verse, and its content had not caught my attention before. I have read through the Gospel of John dozens of times, yet this verse had not ever caught my eye or attention. I wondered why it had slipped by so many times before. The simple, and overly spiritual, answer was that the Holy Spirit had not ever “impressed it” upon me during previous readings.That answer seemed to put the weight of the matter on the Spirit and serve as an excuse for me. Perhaps I am over-thinking the matter. I doubt it. Examination is a vital part of meditative reading of Scripture. So, in order to take responsiblity for not getting-a-hold-of this verse before, I jotted down some questions that helped to prompt me on how I should read the Bible. They were a sound reminder for me, and I pass them along to you:
How am I reading the Bible?
- Am I reading it at a nice mosey, or at a jogger’s pace?
- Does it have my full attention, or is my attention divided among other things? A fine antidote to this is to keep a pad and pencil handy. If a stray thought about work, family, or such starts barking at you it can be chased out of the back yard of your mind by writing it down.
- Am I reading it meditatively — soaking it in as I go — or moving along at a pace that causes me to miss things?
- Is my mind clear, neutral, and unfettered so that the Holy Spirit can bring insight, conviction, encouragement, or show connections to other passages? Having a clear mind that is not moving in any pre-determined direction with a text creates an ideal chalkboard for God to write upon.
- Am I eager to receive truth and insight from the passage that I am reading? We must be active readers of the Word, not passive ones; spiritual growth is never by osmosis, or Osteen, I must say.
A walk this evening fitly illustrated all of this for me. I took Lucy, our Australian Shepherd pup, for a walk on our farm. I took her around the pond and up the first hill for a little piece. She had never been this far. She was excited. Her nubby tail vibrated. Instead of walking at a pace that I prefered, I allowed her to walk, run, zig-zag, sniff and explore. She seemed to smell each blade of grass, pause at every sound, and quiver with excitement as she went. That’s how I should read God’s Word, and how you should too. Treat it as if it’s brand new each time, expect to see new things, and to meet the Living God. With our spiritual ears perked, eyes widened, and noses ready we should enter the Bible like an eager pup … determined and delighted to see new things. Then, truth won’t slip by.