The first time I read the Bible—and I mean really read the Bible, not just random snippets that showed up on TV shows and in comic books and novels—was when I was 25. It wasn’t a book I had grown up around; it never even occurred to me that I should read it. And I’ll be honest, when I did read it the first time, it was because I wanted to make fun of a Christian friend.
God, with His divine sense of irony, had other plans. I walked down the street from my home to a Christian bookstore that happened to be a mere two blocks away. I purchased a Bible with the help of a bewildered employee, then returned home to start reading. Several people, including the woman at the store, encouraged starting with John’s Gospel (because I’m a contrarian by nature, I started with Mark).
As I read, I was fascinated by this Jesus person, this man who claimed to be God, who was so different than the Jesus pop culture mocked so incessantly, which up to that point was the only Jesus I knew. This Jesus was not like that one. He was a man who had power over evil, could heal the sick, and taught with authority. A man of whom His own disciples said, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him” (Matt. 8:27). He was a man that everyone who encountered Him had a reaction to, because they couldn’t not.
what is the Bible about?
And then I became a Christian, and as a new believer, I was amazed by what I was reading. But I was also confused. Part of my confusion actually came from what I was being taught. I was learning good and biblical principles for living. I was exposed to several different verses every week, but I didn’t entirely know how to fit it all together. Was the Bible a collection of principles, inspirational sayings, and moral examples, like an instruction manual for life? I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something. One day, I realized what while reading about Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees in John 5.
The Pharisees were, of course, the “Bible guys” of their day. They loved the Law; they studied it diligently. They pored over every word. But when Jesus began His ministry, they were at first confused about Him—and soon their confusion turned to anger. Who was this man to violate the Law, or at least their approach to it? Who was this man who was a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 11:19)? They tried to turn people against Him, to trap Him with questions over biblical interpretation, and more besides. They attacked His character, and even His family. They even tried to kill Him. But Jesus’ assessment them was earth-shattering:
“You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, and yet they testify about me” (John 5:39, CSB).
what–or who–makes the Bible make sense
And there it was, the thing that I had been missing. The Key to the puzzle that the Bible can seem to be for many of us—even those who grew up with it. Many Christians spend their whole lives approaching the Bible as basically a big book of rules, morality tales, and inspirational sayings. And although there is much to be inspired by, many moral truths, and many wise commands contained within it, if that’s all we see the Bible as, we’re missing its point. We’ll diligently study the book searching for the secret of eternal life, and may miss the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).
But seeing that all Scripture testifies about Jesus changes everything about how we understand the Bible—and how we live in light of it. We recognize the Old Testament, not as a wholly separate collection of writings, but as the foundation and foreshadowing of everything that happens in the New, the first part of one big story told from Genesis to Revelation. We see the New Testament for what it is, as good news of great joy for all people—because Jesus came to fulfil the Law, to rescue us through His death and resurrection, and restore the relationship with our Creator that sin ruined. And we can live faithfully in the world right now, as good news people in a bad news world. People who live knowing how the story God is telling ends, a story that says that all the bad we experience right now in this world will come to an end in the world to come, when Jesus returns to make all things new, to put an end to sin and sadness and suffering. When death will die, and God’s people will all rejoice.
good news too good to keep to ourselves
This is the understanding we need to fully make sense of the Bible in the way God intended (Luke 24:27; John 5:39). As much as the Bible encourages us, helps us to live wisely, and provides powerful examples of courage and compassion, we need to turn away from our tendencies to reduce it to being about such things. God wants us to see something so much more than that, something so much bigger—that the gospel is at work from beginning to end. That Jesus is at its center. We need His help to see this—and we need His help so that we might help others see it as well. To be people who say with John the Baptist, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29b).
This good news is too good to keep to ourselves. It is meant to be shared with the whole world. It needs to be shared with the whole world. May God help us to do it.