Thursday, October 18, 2012

Read the Same Biblical Passage from Multiple Perspectives

By Justin Taylor

Luke 18:35-43:

As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
Vern Poythress writes in Symphonic Theology:
Suppose first that we read the passage to see what it says about ethics. There are no direct ethical statements in the passage, but we would certainly detect some general principles. We can say that (1) we ought to ask Jesus to supply our needs, as the blind man did; (2) we ought to have mercy on people in need as Jesus had mercy on the blind man; (3) we ought not to turn people away or discourage them from coming to Jesus, even if they are being a nuisance; (4) we ought to have faith in Jesus, as the blind man did; and (5) like the blind man and the crowd, we ought to praise God for his mighty works.

Now suppose that we read the same passage again, this time with a devotional interest. We will probably recognize that Jesus’ healing of blindness is symbolic of his healing spiritual blindness (see especially John 9:39-41). Jesus has had mercy on us in saving us from spiritual blindness. As Christians we come to him again and again in prayer, just as the blind man did. We ask Jesus to take away our remaining blindness and cause us to see him as we should.
We might next read the passage for its theological doctrines. When we do so, we notice particularly what it reveals about Christ. His healing miracles testify to the fact that he is the divine Messiah. They also show the immeasurable power of God to work miracles in the physical world, as well as to work the miracle of spiritual sight and regeneration.
[Different Focuses of Attention]
And so we may go on to still other readings of the same passage, each time with a different focus of attention. Consequently, each time we may notice something new or something that did not realyy capture our attention before. If we are to sound the depths of a passage, we need to come back to it again and again.
If we read the passage from ten different perspectives, we still should not feel as if we are reading ten distinct passages. If we are reading carefully, we notice many of the same things each time. But each time certain different things stand out. Each time we force ourselves to pay direct attention to something new in order to make sure that we do not miss anything.

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