"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." John 5:39-40
WHEN WORDS FEEL INADEQUATE
As dots of ink snaked across the page, it seemed impossible they could ever fill the insatiable hole left by grief after a series of intense losses in my little faith community. Tasked with writing words of hope, I found none fit for the job, and I was desperate for the Word Himself to show up in every way I had ever experienced Him before; in His Word, in me, and in His beautiful community.
In the face of our most profound losses, only Jesus will do.
JESUS – IN THE WORD, IN US, AND IN COMMUNITY
Many Christians stress the importance of studying the Scriptures as a primary means of avoiding falling into error. On the surface, this thought would seem bumper-sticker-worthy. But when I investigate, I discover people who know the sacred words better than I could ever imagine understanding them. They memorize, recite, practice, write, teach, and argue the words found in the Law and the Prophets. Yet, even with their detailed knowledge, many “couldn’t see the forest for the trees” of Scripture, as Eugene Peterson said in The Message translation of 2 Corinthians 10:7. They completely missed the point—which is Jesus.
In the Book of John, beginning in chapter 5, the Jews’ resistance to Jesus as the promised Messiah intensifies. They accuse Him of breaking the law by healing the lame man by the pool at Bethesda. (John 5:16) And they couldn’t believe He had the nerve to call God his Father and equal.
Jesus pushes back, condemning them for not heeding the witness of the Scriptures and missing His presence in them, and ends by declaring the congregation empty of God’s love and void of eternal life.
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)
The attacks on Jesus continue until these haters get what they want—Jesus, sentenced to death by crucifixion.
From the beginning to the end of the Biblical story, the words of Scripture testify of Jesus and the eternal life offered through Him alone.
“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12)
In his Biblical commentary, Matthew Henry says, “Christ is the treasure hid in the field of the scriptures, the water in those wells, the milk in those breasts.”
To receive life, we must turn away from self-salvation projects and trust Jesus. His cord of gracious love draws us. As we dig into His Word, He meets us there and shows us His way of love.
If knowing every jot and speck of scripture can’t keep us from falling into error, what can? It is Jesus we need, and it is Jesus we find in His living and active Word. We fall into error when we do not trust in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of sins and His gift of eternal life.
JESUS – ALL WE NEED TO SEE
One story in Scripture uniquely paints this picture. In Matthew 17:1-8, we read of the transfiguration of Jesus on a high mountain, witnessed by Peter, James, and John. “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.” (Matthew 17:2-3)
Before anyone could adequately respond to what they saw, God spoke from a bright cloud covering them, “‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’ When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.” (Matthew 17:5-8)
When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
This is how I envision searching the Scriptures and knowing the Word. Jesus touches us as only He can and encourages us to investigate without fear. And when we look up from looking into these God-crafted words and stories—we see no one except Jesus.
The Jesus we see is:
- The Word who spoke everything into being. (John 1:1; Genesis 1:1-2)
- The One who fearfully and wonderfully knit you together in your mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13)
- The perfect sacrifice who passionately proceeded from heaven to earth to climb a hill called Calvary to bleed and die for you. (Romans 10:9)
- The One you are reading when you read the Word. And in reading His story, you make sense of your own—even the deep and painful losses. (John 5:39-40)
JESUS – STANDING IN THE GAP
Yet, even knowing all of this, I sat contemplating the inadequacy of the words I had penned. I sensed a gap between heaven and earth that nothing could fill. Jesus stepped into this void as if on cue, gently reminding me that His Spirit is both a comforter and encourager who dwells in me and each member of His beautiful community. This embodied community stands in the gap left by great sorrow and loss, relentlessly together—until, once again, all they see is Jesus.
Joshua Bremerman says it this way: “We gaze into the face of Jesus as we open God’s word, and he transforms us. We get the growth, and he gets the glory”. Our growth is on full display through our love for one another.
JESUS – THE TREASURE IN THE FIELD
When you open the Scriptures, what are you hoping to find there? Is it the revealing of Jesus in all His love and glory, standing in the gap for you?
When we study the Word with the Word, we find ourselves and each other stripped of pretenses, transforming how we see ourselves, view evil and suffering, and view each other. Not only is Jesus the Word, but He is also the Word in us, strengthening and reminding us of His great love for His beautiful, united community.
You see, when we rest on the finished work of Jesus, we shift—to an eternal life of freedom. From our deepest sorrows to our greatest pleasures, He is with us, and His joy permeates it all. And when we drink from this well, we need never fear having the right words.
Next time you search the Scriptures—search not for Jesus as a historical figure or for knowledge to keep you from error. Search it, instead, for Jesus, and His uninterruptible grace, the only place of authentic rest and freedom.
When the weight of this world is heavy, and words seem inadequate, remember that He has given Himself in His Word, inside of us, and in His beautiful community. Where individual words fail, Jesus meets us. We need not fear, for He is fully present with us in it all.