I love those aha moments. You know, those times when something you don’t know, but should have known, gets revealed to you. Like the time many, MANY years ago when my daughter realized a billfold is called a billfold because it folds bills. Or that “bye” is not the name of a team who never shows up at a softball tournament. Sorry, Jennifer! You can swat me later.
Aha moments bring clarity. They put things in perspective. They give us a chance to rethink some things. I recently had one of those moments about something many of you may already know. But, just humor me by raising your eyebrows and shouting “Aha!” when I’m done.
I’ve said many times that as I journeyed my way with fresh eyes through the Bible, one passage leapt off the page and stood at attention. It was Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in John 5:38-39: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think in them you will find eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me for life.” All my life I had studied the Word to prove points and win arguments, but I had not taken time to appreciate the love Jesus has for me. Staring into John’s mirror on the wall I realized I was not the loveliest one of all. Gazing back at me was the know-it-all face of a Pharisee.
Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day made up the ruling class. (Dare we compare them to the political parties of today?) The Pharisees, not as wealthy and prestigious as the Sadducees, related better with the common man. While they believed Scripture (Genesis to Deuteronomy) was holy and to be strictly followed, their traditions of men carried equal weight. Pharisees were in the minority, but the support of the commoners gave them power the Sadducees did not have.
Sadducees, on the other hand, were wealthy, powerful, and political. They worked hard to accommodate Rome’s authority. Scripture alone was their authority, but they did not believe in angels, the afterlife, or resurrection. Though rivals, the Pharisees and Sadducees united against Jesus because they considered Him a threat to their power over the people and peace with Rome.
Last Tuesday’s One Year Bible reading was in Matthew 22. Here, rather than speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus is addressing the Sadducees about their lack of faith in the resurrection. He tells them, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Just the opposite of what He told the Pharisees.
Many of us who have studied Scripture through a legalistic filter try to rigidly follow all the rules – even though we vehemently refuse to admit their control over us. Traditions have become laws we think should never be changed. Seemingly easier do’s and don’ts trump the vulnerability of relationships. Self-righteousness tamps the fertile soil of a non-believer’s soft heart until it becomes so hard that Satan’s vultures gobble up the dormant seed we sow. We fear becoming like those whose pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction that we criticize them for being radical and going off the deep end. We are afraid defection from tradition will cause the seed we sow to fill with hot air and become mixed with weed seeds. Radicals see traditionalists as ignorant of Jesus, while traditionalists see radicals as ignorant of Scripture.
That’s when the “Aha Light Bulb” lit up over my head with a ding! What if we all simply did what Jesus said to do in John 14:15? He said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” You know those two commands, right? Love God and love others. All the commandments hang on those two. If we all took a few steps toward Jesus we couldn’t help but love Him more and simultaneously grow closer to each other. Traditionalists, like I used to be, just might begin to have their passion for the gospel stirred after witnessing the freedom in their new friends. Those considered radical might begin to see that the passionate expression of freedom in Christ can often appear quietly overwhelming. Neither would view the other as completely right nor completely wrong. Each side could then encourage the other with their transformation stories as they travel down the same road. One thing is for sure, those who step closer to Jesus will be changed!
When this change happens, know who benefits most? It’s all those standing on the sidelines desperately looking for something to believe in, to hope in, and to love. And the greatest of these is love.