This blog continues the series dealing with the Bible and scriptural issues. It began with the 1st blog: Reading the Bible Means Opening a Treasury. The immediately preceding blog is The Old and New Testaments (B).
We have already seen through Luke 24:13-35, that a personal encounter with the Risen Christ was not enough to bring the disciples to faith in the resurrection. Rather it was only when they encountered Christ in the Scriptures and in the Breaking of the Bread that the disciples’ eyes were open and they realized the truth about the resurrection and about Jesus being Messiah and Son of God. The Church has made this same apostolic experience of and encounter with Christ in the Eucharist and in the public proclamation and interpretation of Scriptures available to each of us today in and through the Divine Liturgy.
“At the center of the Divine Liturgy is Scripture—not in a dead and distant way, but as a living expression of the presence of God. It is the task of the members of the Body of Christ to bring the word of Scripture into the ‘eternal now’ by their attentiveness. … when we encounter Scripture in the liturgy, it is from a place of complete presence. The process is much more ‘Bible listening’ than ‘Bible study.’” (Archimandrite Meletios Webber, BREAD & WATER, WINE & OIL, p 66)
It was Jesus who opened the hearts of the disciples to the Scriptures, to reveal their meaning and purpose, and their fulfillment in HIM. It is Christ who continues to speak to us in and through the Liturgy of the Church, where, in fact, we encounter Christ in the Eucharist and in the Scriptures publicly proclaimed and heard in the presence of Christ. It was not in the personal encounter with the risen Lord that the disciples en route to Emmaus (Luke 24) came to faith, but when He revealed Himself in the Scriptures and in the breaking of the bread. That story is showing to all of us who believe and yet have not seen that we come to faith in Christ the same way that the disciples did in those days after the crucifixion. St. John offers a similar idea in his Gospel. Fr. Paul Tarazi makes this point in coming on John 20:29-31 ( Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”) According to St. John the Scriptures were written precisely to bring us to faith; they recorded what we need to know to believe in Christ – to bring us to the exact same faith as the original disciples.
“For the rest of the Church, the Holy Spirit working through the word of scripture brings the vision of Christ. Notice how John is very clearly insisting on the full sufficiency of this written gospel for anyone seeking to attain life in Christ. He certainly could have mentioned ‘oral tradition’ in some way here, but does not. (Actually he dismisses it, or at least its relevance, let alone its necessity, when he writes that he intentionally casts to oblivion ‘many other signs’ that “Jesus did in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.’) It is to Christ’s word preserved in this written document that the church is expected to turn as its teacher.” (Paul Tarazi, THE NEW TESTAMENT INTRODUCTION: JOHANNINE WRITINGS, p 257)
The Scriptures were written by those inspired by God to give us that wisdom we need to come to faith – to fully encounter the risen Lord.
“Revelation is far more than a set of statements; it is an encounter with the triune God. … Although many Christians popularly refer to the Bible as the Word of God, it is more accurate to speak of the Scripture as the inspired, testimony to the living Word of God. The Bible is not to be equated with revelation; it is a privileged witness to what God has revealed to us. The same Word of God revealed in the Scriptures would continue to abide in the life of the Church, its liturgy, its theological reflection, its doctrinal pronouncements and the daily insight of ordinary believers.” (Richard Gaillardetz, BY WHAT AUTHORITY?, p 6)
The purpose of Christianity is not to bring people to the Bible, but rather for Christians to be a witness to the Triune God’s work in our world. We are endeavoring to encounter the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit – the living God in whom we live and have our being (Acts 17:28), and who continues to work in creation for the salvation of the human race.