Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bible Blog On The Bible

I was reading in Matthew recently and came across an interesting passage. Before I have you read it, first read the parallel passages in Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26. Now, you can go to Matthew 9:1-6 and read how Matthew told the same story.

Wild, huh? The quotes are basically identical, but the thing that most captures your attention in Mark and Luke’s version is conspicuously absent from Matthew’s. No roof, no hole, no ropes. Just a paralyzed dude, forgiveness and healing.

Which points us to two questions. First, why did Matthew leave out what we consider the most memorable part of the story?

Well, my feeling is that Matthew understood people. And he knew if he mentioned the roof incident, people might miss what he considered the most important part—Jesus’ authority to forgive sins, a huge deal to the Jews to whom he addressed his letter. So he didn’t mention what was most impressive to focus on what was most important.


But now to the second question. If the Bible writers were free to leave stuff out, what does that say about inspiration? How do we square Matthew’s decision with the idea that the entire Bible is “God-breathed”? (2 Timothy 3:16)

Well, I think a verse from 2 Peter might help us get our arms around this:

For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21NIV)

Somehow, as they wrote, the Holy Spirit intersected in their lives in such a way that what they said was exactly what they wanted to say—and exactly what God wanted them to say. Their personalities shown through, but the words and ideas were still the very words of God. Sort of like how Jesus (the Word of God) was 100% God and 100% man, the Bible (the word of God) is 100% divine and 100% human.

So, Matthew can sit down with the idea of telling Jews about Jesus, choosing which stories to tell and even what angle to take when telling them. Luke can write to the Gentiles, choosing some of the same stories, some different ones, and some from different angles from Matthew. And both are fully in the will of God, both fully writing the words of God.

Or, as John put it when addressing this very issue, “Jesus' disciples saw him do many other miraculous signs besides the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life.” (John 20:30-31 NLT)


Amanda S. said...

When I read this, it makes me think that when we each share our faith story, its always different, but the ending and message are always the same....I know this is not the point of the blog, but that's what I think of when I think back about what was said about Matthew.

Joshua said...

Well Amanda I beg to differ I think that is a big part of the message. When we witness it is our story. It is what we have experienced after being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is what God has revealed to us and what He wants us to share. When I tell my story there may be some things in my past that I leave out to some, but I find it crucial to include when I speak to others. I think it is a matter of relevance. If I am talking with someone who is struggling with something I struggled with, I can tell them what God did for me or what He did for the people around me to hold me accountable to change. I think that is exactly what Apostles were doing, They are addressing the Faith Factor in the other churches as well as other religions. To some it was important to hear how much faith the Gentiles had to lower a man through a roof to be forgiven and healed by Jesus, but to the others it was just important for them to know Jesus, by what authority He speaks from and that only because of Him and the Cross we are forgiven.

Lets get real though if some said to me I am going to lower you through a roof on that mattress you are laying on to be forgiven and healed. I would look at them like they were nuts! Waiting for them to sell me some farm land in Brooklyn. But I guess if God told me to lower someone from a roof into that room they would look at me like I was nuts.