... or seeing what’s there.
Last week we did a wee session with Bible Class on ‘How to study the Bible’. One of the main points that I tried to convey was about seeing what’s there - looking carefully at the text and engaging with it in a fresh, imaginative way. I wish I’d said something about challenging assumptions and the danger of familiarity - maybe next time?
Anyway, my thoughts turned to this again in church yesterday. The minister was talking about ‘Palm Sunday’ and drew a comparison with the biblical nativity narratives. I started thinking along these lines (not in the way that he intended!). My thought process was about how overly-familiar we are with these passages, to the point that we fail to see clearly what’s there.
For example, palms are only mentioned in John’s gospel. I wonder ‘why?’. What point was John trying to make that didn’t merit the inclusion of horticultural detail from any of the synoptic authors?
But the biggest issue for me is the emphasis that the churches I’ve attended have tended to put on the Triumphal Entry as the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy. In over 40 years of attending churches, I’ve heard this theme on a recurring basis. I don’t recall (although I’m open to correction on this) hearing the emphasis being placed on Jesus’ declaration in this episode. We can argue the toss around why some OT prophecies about the Messiah are apparently fulfilled in the record of the life of Jesus, but it seems to me to be beyond dispute that Jesus would have been acutely aware of the significance of his mode of transport and the shock waves that would be sent forth as a result. This was a radical, challenging, decision-forcing declaration - and I think that we too easily miss the power and energy of it.
I’d love to hear your views (probably!).