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The Greatest Bible Study Ever

May 8, 2022 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 24:44-47 (NRSV)

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Focus

After Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to his disciples several times. In one of these meetings, he led what we might call “the greatest Bible study ever.” Jesus showed his apprentices everything in the Hebrew Scriptures that explained his life, ministry, death, and resurrection. Though we don’t get to learn from Jesus in the flesh, he does continue to teach his disciples today through Scripture and through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us and among us as we gather in Christian community.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

I’ve been in well over a thousand Bible studies throughout my life. Near as I can remember, the first time I was in something called a Bible study was at summer camp when I was ten years old. Since then, I’ve spent thousands of hours studying the Bible with others, sometimes being taught by a trained teacher, sometimes discussing a passage with group members, and sometimes combining both approaches.

I am fascinated by the input of “just plain folks” when we’re studying Scripture together. I have often heard the Lord speak through Christians who, though lacking seminary training, are attentive to the voice of the Spirit. In addition, I have loved being taught the Bible by highly trained teachers who are also godly men and women. When I was at Laity Lodge, for example, I was able to learn from some of my heroes of biblical interpretation, including folks like N.T. Wright and Dale Bruner. It’s wonderful to learn from someone who really knows their stuff, someone who can show me things in Scripture that I have missed. I think of those experiences at Laity Lodge as some of the best Bible studies I’ve ever participated in.

Thus, when I read the account of Jesus’s post-resurrection appearances in Luke 24, my heart quickens when I get to verses 44-47. As Jesus was hanging out with his disciples, having just eaten a bit of fish to prove that he wasn’t a ghost, he said, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). After saying this, Jesus “opened their minds to understand the scriptures” (24:45). No doubt Jesus did with his disciples what he had done with the two on the road to Emmaus when he “interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures” (24:27).

Can you imagine what it would have been like to participate in a Bible study lead by Jesus? I wonder how it felt to sit and listen as Jesus went passage by passage through the Hebrew Scriptures, “opening the minds” of his disciples so they would see how these passages pointed to Jesus, guiding his life, ministry, and self-understanding. The two disciples whom Jesus taught on the road to Emmaus agreed that their hearts were burning as Jesus talked to them. I expect the larger group of disciples in Jerusalem felt a similar amazed and joyful blaze. After all, they were part of what we might call “the greatest Bible study ever.”

You and I won’t get to take part in a Bible study just like that, at least not this side of the age to come. But even without the physical presence of Jesus, we can still learn from him. We can still have our hearts inflamed as he opens our minds to the truth. If we seek to learn from Jesus, he will teach us through the study of Scripture, as we dig into its meaning with disciplined minds and receptive hearts. Jesus may not be physically present with us, but he is present through the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel of John Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit “will teach you everything” (John 14:26) and “guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). The Spirit often teaches us by gifting others in our community to teach and share words of wisdom (1 Corinthians 14:26). Sometimes we are the ones gifted to teach our sisters and brothers. So, even without the human Jesus sitting among us, Jesus can still teach us if we are open and available.

Of course, learning from Jesus in person would be a different kind of experience. For one thing, we’d be able to put aside our defenses and learn with utter receptivity. When we learn from other Christians, even the most brilliant and wise, we need to “test everything” and “hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). No human teacher speaks with the same truthfulness and authority as Jesus. (This includes me, of course!) Nevertheless, Jesus will often instruct and inspire us through the words of our sisters and brothers in Christ, but only if our hearts are prepared to listen and learn.

Let me close this devotion with one practical, personal example. As one who has taught the Bible thousands of times, I can be pretty picky when it comes to what I hear in sermons and lectures. In fact, I can quickly find myself sitting in the “seat of scoffers” if a preacher isn’t up to snuff. When this happens, I guarantee you I won’t learn anything from Jesus. So, though I do try to “test everything” I hear from a preacher or teacher, I also regularly ask the Lord to speak to me. My prayer is really quite simple: “Lord, may I hear at least one thing that you want to say to me today.” I find that this prayer opens my heart so that I often do hear what I believe the Lord is saying to me, no matter what grade I might give the sermon. Maybe you’d find this prayer helpful as well.

Reflect

What was one of the greatest Bible studies you participated in? Why was it so good?

Can you think of a time when you sensed that the Lord was speaking to you as you were studying the Bible?

Can you remember a time when the Lord spoke to you through the teaching of another?

What helps you to be open to hearing from God through the study of Scripture?

Act

The next time you’re in a place of teaching, try using this simple prayer: “Lord, may I hear at least one thing that you want to say to me today.”

Pray

Lord Jesus, thank you for leading “the greatest Bible study ever.” I’m sure it was wonderful for the disciples who were present. But it’s surely true that what you taught them has been passed on to us, especially through the writings of the New Testament. So, though we weren’t a part of that Bible study in person, in a sense we continue to participate in it.

Lord, help me to be open to hearing from you. Teach me as I study your Word on my own. Teach me as I engage in Bible study with others. Teach me as I listen to preachers and teachers. Teach me as I read those who interpret the Scripture.

Help me, Lord, to learn from those whose experiences and perspectives aren’t similar to mine. Give me ears to hear as you speak to me through people of different locations, denominations, races, ethnicities, convictions, classes, and cultures.

Help me to be faithful to test all things and hold fast to what is good. May I weigh what I am learning in light of your truth. But, I pray, keep me from rejecting what I don’t want to hear because it makes me uncomfortable or because it’s unfamiliar. May I always be open to you, Lord, and to the fresh breeze of your Spirit. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. A blog on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: 6 Ideas to Jumpstart Your Personal Bible Study


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