I know I’ve said before that the Bible doesn’t have a lot of humor in it, and there’s a good reason for that. But it’s also true that the disciples produced some unintentional humor by their lack of understanding and comprehension. I mean, how many times and how clearer did Jesus have to tell them that he was about to die in Jerusalem? With all reverence and respect, it’s like a Saturday Night Live skit sometimes: He tells them “I’m about to go to Jerusalem, where I'll be betrayed, arrested, tortured, and die. But the good news is that three days later I’ll be coming back from the dead.” And he might as well be Charlie Brown’s teacher from the TV specials for how well they were listening—“What was that, Jesus? You said that you’re going to diet? What type of diet are we talking about? I hear the Adkins works wonders.”
Why was this so? Was it a case of lack of spiritual enlightenment, or was it just a case of someone telling them something they didn’t want to hear and tuning him out? I suspect both are partially true. The O.T. had made it clear that the Messiah had to die for the sins of God’s people in order to be reconciled to him, but most Jews either weren’t paying attention to it or reinterpreted it to fit their theology. Paul later referred to non-believing Jews thus: “Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.” Today practicing Jews read through the O.T. on a rotating basis every Sabbath, but some of them actually skip over portions like Isaiah 53 for some odd reason.
But after Jesus ascended, the Spirit came on Pentecost. On that day, everything changed. The same Spirit who breathed truth into the prophets now did the same for the Gospel writers and the authors of the rest of the N.T. For a few years the church depended on orally passing down the truth of the New Covenant, but quickly it was recognized that we needed to write these things down, especially as the apostles (and the first generation of Christians) started to die off.
That’s the work of the Spirit that Christ is referring to in today’s passage. He reminded the apostles of what Christ had said and did and oversaw the process of writing it down so that were no errors in what was recorded. He used the backgrounds, vocabularies and writing styles of the various authors, but he made sure that they only wrote down what he wanted them to write down.
But just as importantly, he also taught them to make perfect interpretations of what they remembered. When John makes parenthetical comments in his Gospel, that is just as inspired and authoritative as the words of Christ themselves. The rest of the N.T., which is basically commentary on what we read in the Gospels, is also just as authoritative as the words of Christ. That’s why it bugs me when someone calls himself a “Red-Letter Christian,” as if the words of Paul are any less inspired than something from the mouth of Jesus in the Gospels.
Why is this important today? Because this is describing to you and me how we got the N.T. When the church was officially confirming what books belong in the New Testament, the standard was that the author had to either be an apostle (like Matthew or Paul) or a direct associate of an apostle (like Luke or Mark). This is not the “gossip” game where you whisper in someone’s ear who then whispers the same message in someone else’s ear who then repeats the process in a circle.
There are two questions for you to answer then. First, do you actually believe in this book? Either you do or you don’t. If you don’t, then please don’t pretend that you do. It’s either the inspired inerrant word of God, or it has no more authority than Dear Abby in telling me what to do. Second, if you do believe it, does that fact show up in your life?
Holy Spirit of God, I thank you so much for breathing your word into these men and perfectly preserving its truth for us. I know I grieve you pretty frequently, and I’m sorry about that. May my faith and my actions be in perfect sync