Many Christians rightly emphasise the importance of reading the whole Bible, not leaving out any parts or skipping over sections that we don’t like. But how good are we at this in practice? Do we actually end up focusing only on the parts that suit us, that reinforce our own views, and that show that we are right and others are wrong?
I think it’s highly ironic that Luke tells us in 4:16-30 that Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth and started reading from the prophet Isaiah as follows:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Luke then tells us that Jesus rolled up the scroll and sat down, while everyone’s eyes were fixed on him… Why? Because he’d missed out the most important part! The next sentence in Isaiah 61 that he was quoting from was
… and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. (Isaiah 61:2)
Why does Jesus leave out the part about God’s anger?! Why do you think?
I think maybe the next few verses in Luke give us a clue, as Jesus tells the people gathered that in addition to being a righteous God of judgment, God also cares for and deeply loves those outside of Israel, as he proved by pouring out blessing and healing on the widow at Sidon and Naaman the Syrian. This isn’t popular with the crowd who want him to talk about the destruction of their enemies, and leads to Jesus being taken out of the town and almost thrown down from the top of a cliff!
Why did Jesus choose to be so controversial by deliberately omitting the part about judgment? I don’t for a minute think that Jesus disagreed with Isaiah, or thought that what he had written wasn’t legitimate or wasn’t from God.
I think maybe Jesus saw that the Jews of his day had become so obsessed with the judgment of the nations that they had missed the bigger picture of what God was doing. They had become so focused on their own security, and the destruction of others, that they had missed the role that they were supposed to be playing in blessing the nations.
I wonder if Jesus read the Bible in our churches today, would he leave out any parts, and if so, how would we react…?