The Bible As Script(ure): Part Two

When I was a child, I use to fool myself (and my parents) into thinking I knew how to read. My parents had read Dr. Suess’ Green Eggs and Ham to me so many times that I had the story memorized. And so, I would sit in my bed flipping through the pages recounting the story just to act like I could read. 

As an adult, I find myself “reading” in the same way: regurgitating a story I have been told a thousand times convincing myself (and others) that I am well-read and knowledgeable about the world, politics, religion, philosophy, etc. 

My hope in this post is to convince you that we all probably “read” in the same way (regurgitating a story we have been told even if it has no basis in reality due to a certain laziness towards actually learning and seeing the world anew). 

There’s a story about reading in the Bible.

This particular story is recounted in the Gospel of Luke (chapter 24 for those interested in reading it). Two disciples are walking along a road discussing Jesus’ death, burial, and supposed resurrection and how sad they are that Jesus did not redeem Israel. Jesus presents himself to these two disciples as they are walking and talking, but the two do not recognize this Stranger as Jesus. The two tell Jesus of everything that has happened as if this Stranger does not know. Once they finish telling Jesus all of these things, Jesus admonishes them saying, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!” 

But, here is where the story gets interesting. We are informed that this Stranger (and the disciples still have not put two and two together to realize that this person they are talking to is Jesus) proceeds to interpret everything Moses and the prophets said regarding the coming of the Messiah. Jesus essentially interprets all of Scripture for these two disciples. The implication of the story is that if the disciples had known how to read and interpret Scripture in the correct way, they would have known the Messiah’s true mission (more on the Messiah’s mission in a later post).

If they had known how to read properly, they would have known.

I think these two disciples previously read Scripture like how I “read” Green Eggs and Ham. They were expecting a Messiah that would come into great political power to deliver Israel from the oppressive Roman Empire. They interpreted everything in Scripture according to what they were expecting, to what they were told, to what they were wanting from the Messiah. The Stranger in the story, however, says that these two did not interpret the story correctly. 

What if we have not interpreted the story correctly?

What if we are reading Scripture like how I used to read Green Eggs and Ham? What if we are failing to recognize the true mission of the Messiah due to our inability to read and interpret correctly? What if we are just regurgitating a story about Jesus because it is what we have been told? What if we are just interpreting Jesus to what we are expecting or to what we are wanting from the Messiah? What if?

I digress.

These two disciples are informed that they could have done a better job reading. And, if they had read the story more appropriately–I’m offering a little conjecture on this point–they would have been in a better position as disciples.

Based on my observation, it appears that our American society has completely forgotten how to read (I’m no longer talking about the Bible explicitly). It seems like we consistently regurgitate a story we have been told without presently appraising the story itself. We reframe every story to reflect what we expect to be the case or what we want to be the case. Social Media and News Networks are echo chambers of particular narratives catering to specific audiences. Political leaders mindlessly regurgitate a popular myth in order to capture votes and maintain power. Citizens reinforce the capitalistic narrative that ‘money is power’ by spending or withholding funds from certain corporations because those entities also uphold particle narratives that have no basis in reality. 

The curse runs deep.

When I say that it seems that we have forgotten how to read, I am saying that we have forgotten how to presently acknowledge the complexity and eminence of the stories we tell. We have forgotten that behind every narrative are actual children suffering, real people that don’t have clean water, nonfictional families fleeing violent regimes. Now more than ever, we need to know how to read reality in such a way that we don’t miss the Strangers in our midst.

After Jesus interpreted Scripture to the two disciples, they still do not recognize the Stranger as Jesus. Even after they are given the correct story, they fail to see that the Messiah is right there in front of them.

Later that night, however, the two disciples sit down at a table with the Stranger. Then, Jesus breaks bread as he did with disciples in the past. And, in the moment that Jesus broke bread, they finally recognize that this Stranger is the Messiah. And, in typical Jesus fashion…he disappears.

Let us read the stories more carefully that are in front of us. May we listen to the Strangers telling us how to interpret the stories we are hearing. May we gather around the table with those that are telling us a story differently than we have heard before. May we listen to those calling us out on our laziness and our willingness to regurgitate a narrative because it is what we have been told. May we share bread with the Strangers of this world so that we might have our eyes opened yet again.

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