Monday, August 22, 2011

Read Between the Lines

The second step in reading and understanding your Bible is to interpret the text. The first step was to make observations, noticing the facts and details of what is actually written in the Scripture passage. After you have made those observations you should ask what they mean. What is the purpose or meaning of the text? I see this as reading between the lines. You are looking for the meaning that is not always on the surface.
There are times the purpose of a passage is given. Sometimes when Jesus shares a parable, he will then interpret that parable. There are also times the writers of a book of the Bible says something like, "this was written so that you will never forget." They give you the reason for the passage. However, most of the time it is up to us as readers to dig into the text and find the meaning.
The passage we looked at yesterday was Mark 10:17-31. This was the story of the Rich Young Ruler. We found several places that we wanted to read between the lines. One was where Jesus lists 5 of the Ten Commandments. We wondered why those five and why did Jesus leave off the other five? There is no apparent reason given, so we were thinking of reasons Jesus might have done this. Like maybe Jesus was pointing out that the man was having trouble keeping the five he did not list. We do not know for sure, but that sounded like a reasonable idea.
Another place we were asking for meaning was in Jesus' response that this man needed to sell everything he had, give it to the poor and follow Jesus. We wondered if everyone needs to do this? Is this a universal truth, or specific to this man? We decided it was a little bit of both. This man's wealth was holding him back from following Jesus, and we all have something doing this in our lives. It may not be wealth for all of us (it may be for some), but Jesus would be able to tell each of us what it is that we need to give away.
Finally we looked at Jesus' saying, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven." We wondered if Jesus really meant this or if we need to interpret it? I said that Jesus meant this in the sense that really it is impossible for any person to enter heaven on their own merit. Getting into heaven is not about what we can do, but about what God has done. God makes it possible for us to enter heaven. We just need to accept the invitation.
There are more questions we could ask as we interpret this passage, but those were some places we focused. If you have other questions or interpretations of this passage please comment on this blog. Keep on reading your Bible and keep making observations and interpretations.

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