by Pastor Matt Bishop
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You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life (John 5:39).
When you get a snack attack, where do you go? It might be the fridge or the pantry. And once you are there, what do you go for? My wife regularly reminds me that eight almonds or a small serve of dried fruit are far healthier than chocolate, chips, or peanut butter on toast! Likewise, veggie sticks are a better option than cheese and mettwurst. The pantry or the fridge might be the right place to look when hungry (ignoring the fruit bowl!), but what you choose might be the ‘wrong’ thing.
That’s how I read today’s text. Jesus is speaking with the Jewish leaders who are angry with him because he healed a paralysed man on the Sabbath day of rest. One of the things he points out is that they have been looking in the right place – but for the wrong thing. It’s right to look in the Scriptures and for life no less (verse 38). They have even gone to the right person at that point: Moses (there is no New Testament yet). But there, they have focused on the wrong thing: the law and their ever stricter and more pious interpretations than the prophecies of Christ that Moses declares (for example, see Deuteronomy 18:15–20). It’s kind of like the difference between going for junky carbs rather than a low GI high-fibre slice of bread! Just like junky carbs end up accusing us through the evidence that remains as we carry around extra kilos, Jesus says, ‘Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set’ (verse 43).
The question for us is, where do we go to be fed? There is no doubt that the Scriptures contain the words of life. But our legalistic and judgemental minds like to go for a quick grab of law. There, we can either justify our judgements of others or point to our own righteousness. That’s like empty carbs, though, because there is no life in thinking that’s where nutrition resides. We’ll soon be accused by our failures. The law’s job is not to bring life but to show us our need for Christ. Christ is where true life resides (John 11:25), and he is whom we keep our focus on. ‘For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ’ (John 1:17). Keep looking there!
Holy Spirit, thank you for your Scriptures. Kill off in us the tendency to look to the law of Moses to understand the Father’s love for us, rather than the grace and truth of life that has come through Jesus. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.