Scripture: John 5:30-47
Key verse: (39) “You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
Reflection: Last week the American Bible Society of Charlotte released the findings of a Spiritual Needs Assessment conducted in our community last year. Of the 2,000 people surveyed, 93% considered themselves familiar with Scripture. I was stunned by that number. While I’d love to believe it’s true, in my experience I do not find that 9 out 10 people I encounter have a basic understanding of the story of the Bible. Perhaps “familiar” meant, “I’ve heard of the Bible.” I don’t know. 60% of survey respondents claimed they attended church once or twice a month. Again, I found myself wondering about the truthfulness of the responses to the survey. In a metropolitan area of 1.9 million people, do 1,140,000 people attend church once or twice a month? Perhaps. 50% of people who describe themselves as “regular church attendees” say they engage the Bible during the week. As a reader of this devotional, you’re included in this number, so I’m preaching to the choir!
Our reading for the morning centers in a moment of controversy between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day. They are angry with Jesus because he healed a man on the Sabbath. I would imagine that even more than 93% of religious leaders in Jesus’s day considered themselves familiar with Scripture. And I bet more than 60% of them attended worship services regularly. I’m fairly confident a lot more than 50% of them engaged Scripture daily. Yet, they cannot rejoice that a man who has been ill for 38 years was healed. Why? Because he’s carrying his mat on the Sabbath. Jesus wonders what Bible they’ve been reading. He says that the scriptures they read “bear witness to me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
Sometimes I wonder what Bible we’re reading. I believe Jesus is the living Word of God. The Bible is authoritative because it is the unique witness to the revelation of God in Jesus. Coming to him, we discover what life is all about. What does it mean to come to him? He’ll be very clear about that later in John’s gospel. “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you. By this they will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” In John’s gospel, coming to Christ means living out love for one another. Can you imagine if 93% of Charlotteans lived out our love for one another? Can you imagine a city where 1,140,000 people lived out love for their neighbors as often as they went to church? Would children in Charlotte born into poverty be more likely to stay in poverty than in any other city in the nation if we loved like this? Would we be willing to do whatever it takes to provide early childhood education for every child in Charlotte if we loved like this? Would the increasing epidemic of isolation and loneliness in our society exist if we loved like this? Could we imagine being vulnerable enough to our sisters and brothers in this congregation that we could develop meaningful relationships with one another if we loved like this?
Chapter 5 begins with Jesus asking the man who had been ill for thirty-eight years, “Do you want to be made well?” It’s an important question for us all to consider. By the end of chapter 5, he tells us what it takes. In loving one another, we come to Christ. Coming to Him, we discover what life is all about.
Prayer: “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].