Because Madelon spent the last month in New Zealand and Australia providing Bible workshops in eight cities (see posting under ‘Events’), she is delighted to invite guest writer, Dr. Susan Humble, to once again grace readers with her inspired Scriptural insights. Dr. Humble’s thoughts about how to unpack a text will hopefully prompt you and other readers to share your ideas as well. We learn from each other. A blessed Easter to all…
As we approach our annual celebration of Easter, are you hungering for new and inspiring insights regarding this event? I asked myself this question recently while reading the Easter story in the Gospel of John. We have read the Easter account many times before, so how might we approach our reading of these events differently in order to make them fresh and more relevant for our spiritual growth this year? What I plan to share in this blog is a new, though certainly not the only, way in which we might approach John’s Easter account for fresh inspiration and insights.
Whenever I desire a new reading of scripture, typically my first step is to begin with a question I would like to find answers to. Even my desire to think of questions immediately opens my receptivity for new ideas. Questions might include: what does a word mean? What are the important points in this story? What are the roles and lessons to learn from the minor characters in the story? How does the story develop within the full narrative? The question I wrote down as I began to think about John’s Easter story (chapters 18-20) was, what new insights or meanings arise after studying Jesus’ farewell discourse with his disciples (John 13-16) and his prayer to his Father (John 17)? I will share more background to my question below, but it is important to remember that your question(s) should be what you want to know.
Here is the background for my question. Immediately preceding Jesus’ arrest and trial, he meets privately with his disciples. After he has washed their feet (chapter 13) he then speaks with them about his coming departure from the world, and their future role (chapters 14-16). He then concludes with a beautiful prayer to his Father (chapter 17). I asked myself, if I read the Easter story with these chapters in mind, what new insights might I discover? At first, I found the question rather daunting, because in these chapters Jesus has much to say on several different topics. I needed a new approach to my study of these chapters. I then read chapters 13-17 as if I were one of the disciples sitting in the room with Jesus and the other disciples. I chose a different translation of the Bible than what I typically use, and as I read I typed out verses that stood out to me, but I did so in first person (I and we) as if I were in the room. I then read these over and discovered there were certain themes or topics repeated in these chapters. For instance; Jesus came from/was sent by the Father, love and oneness between Jesus, his Father, and his disciples.
I then highlighted, in three different colors, verses that included these themes. For instance, verses that discuss love I highlighted in red, verses on Jesus coming/being sent in purple, and the “oneness” verses in blue. This helped me see how often and where each theme was mentioned in each chapter. Love was mentioned most often, signifying that this was quite important to John.
Still imagining I was in that room, I listened to Jesus as he spoke to his disciples and prayed aloud to his Father. You can read it aloud yourself, or if you have an audio version of the Bible this is another alternative.
Taking these steps inspired me in fresh ways. Now I was ready to pursue the answer(s) to my question of what new insights and meanings will come to light about the Easter story having studied Jesus’ farewell discourse with his disciples (John 13-16), and his prayer to his Father (John 17).
I am not advocating that these are the only steps in thinking about a biblical text in fresh ways. No doubt, many readers of this blog have developed or discovered different ways to study. I would love if you would share your ideas in the comments section, so that I and other readers can benefit from each other’s study.