From this short preaching series, ‘The Hard Sayings of Jesus’, we realise there are a lot of hard sayings in the bible. They are often small phrases that are challenging, hard hitting, and convict us to live differently. But some, or most, might be ‘hard sayings’ because they are hard to understand. They are steeped in historical, cultural, literary context of another world that quite frankly we have no idea about! Conflicts in the Roman Empire, the experience of temple worship, not having a mode of transport, living off the land and how badly a famine would effect you.
Considering all these factors, it makes studying scripture a challenge. Whilst it is hard work, the study of scriptures is a spiritual discipline that sanctifies us, John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; for you word is the truth.” For even, to be transformed in the renewing of our mind any truth is something Paul talked about. Part of our sanctification will happen when we seek to understand the mysteries of scripture.
There are plenty of resources that can deepen our understanding of scripture. People who have dedicated their lives to understanding and communicating the history of 1st Century Israel and the ancient culture of the Babylonians. Also many who have dedicated their lives to the ancient Greek language to help us translate and understand the New Testament in modern English. I often find to understand only a few pages of the bible I need a book “this thick” to make sense of it!
If you are finding yourself in over your head with trying to make sense of the bible or if you feel dissatisfied with your bible reading and seeking a way to learn more, I encourage you to read a book of a bible along with a commentary. When I studied the Gospel of John alongside a commentary, wow, the words began to become so rich which I wasn’t just relying on my own interpretation.
There are many different types of commentaries. Commentaries written by an African author, Asian author, someone of a more conservative theology or one of a more liberal background, a detailed Greek exegesis or a more pastoral approach to the scripture. All of these perspectives add to and ground our bible reading. It is also a good way to check how you are interpreting it. If you come up with something no one else agrees with, maybe there’s an opportunity for more research. And vis versa, if you arrive at the same conclusions as a scholar that’s a good sign.
While it doesn’t have to be an expensive commentary (go to Koorong and have a browse!), there are plenty of other resources! The Bible Project create amazing online content. Podcasts and videos that are easy to understand and very well put together. Here’s a link to them if you are interested: https://bibleproject.com/
As Ian shares the last sermon in this series, I pray that we can see Jesus’ hard sayings as an invitation that there must be more to what we are reading. An exploration awaits. We can be sure that Jesus offers these ‘hard sayings’ so we can grow deeper in our understanding of Him, and hear the response he was wanting to evoke.