The Perfect Word
“The Pharisees answered them, ‘Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.’” (John 7:47-49)
Jesus often had intense discussions with the Pharisees about who He was. He was the Messiah, but though He often testified to this, the Pharisees refused to believe Him. They had their own ideas about who the Messiah would be, and Jesus didn’t fit their notions at all. So they did all they could to turn the people against Him, seeking to kill Him early in His ministry. They weren’t about to admit that they might be wrong about their own interpretations of the Scriptures.
This blatant denial of the obvious grieved Jesus. These were the religious leaders of Israel, and yet they stubbornly refused to accept Jesus as God’s promised Savior. They were so caught up in what they thought the Scriptures taught that they missed the One God had sent them. They labeled Jesus a blasphemer, a heretic worthy of death. The idea that they were wrong was intolerable to them, and they did all they could to avoid admitting that. In their minds, their understanding of the prophetic writings was impeccable. The Messiah would be a great military leader, one who would lead Israel in a glorious revolution against their oppressors and establish an eternal kingdom on earth. He certainly would not be a humble carpenter from Nazareth who spoke in parables and called the Pharisees blind hypocrites. No matter how many times Jesus spoke to them, telling them the truth of who He was, they would not listen. They were right, and Jesus was a liar. It was as simple as that. And so, because they had convinced themselves that their interpretation of the Scriptures was perfect, they did not recognize their Savior when He stood in their presence. Instead, they worked their hardest to get rid of Him. They killed the Son of God instead of admit their faulty understanding of God’s word.
This is somewhat frightening to think about. We all like to think we have a good understanding of the Bible, that our interpretation of a passage is the correct one. When we meet someone who has a different idea about its meaning, we do all we can to bring them over to our way of thinking. After all, they’re obviously wrong. But the thing is, we’re all equally human. And how can fallen, depraved humans perfectly understand God’s word? The only one who can do that is God Himself. Every word in the Bible has an absolute meaning, and there is only one true interpretation. Our goal should be to discover what it is. It’s incredibly tricky, because we all bring different experiences and perspectives to the table. But the danger lies in holding stubbornly to our own interpretation at the expense of what God is actually saying.
There will come a time when you stumble across a Biblical passage that contradicts some principle or idea you’ve held dear for a while. When this happens, you have a choice: you can dismiss the verse and twist it to match your original perspective, or you can alter your perspective to match what God’s word has just revealed. God never lies; His word is always absolutely true. We, however, are fallen. We are never going to have a perfect understanding of God and His word. This means that when our ideals don’t match up with God’s word, we’re the ones who have to change. The Pharisees refused to humble themselves and admit their mistake, and the result was Jesus’ death at their hands. We have the same choice they did. Will we believe God? Or ourselves?