What the Bible is really all about

Text John 5:39 Date 19 03 17 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
I want us to look this evening at a text that is found in John 5:39, 40. The words are the words of Jesus. He is speaking to Jews in Jerusalem, people who were refusing to trust in him, and he says to them had been an invalid for 38 years. Jesus famously told this man to take up his bed and walk. Because the incident occurred on a Saturday, on the day of a Jewish Sabbath, the Jews were very concerned and accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath laws. This is one of the things they persecuted him for.
In verses 16-18 we read So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defence Jesus said to them, 
"My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working." For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
From verse 19, Jesus speaks to the Jews and explains his intimate relationship with the Father. Then from verse 31 he comes on to the question of why they should believe him. He agrees that if he testifies about myself, his testimony is in some ways not valid. But he says (32) There is another who testifies in my favour, and I know that his testimony about me is true.
This is probably a reference to the testimony of his Father, which was known from time to time. He goes on though to speak about John the Baptist. Verses 33-35 You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. 
Then he says (36) … the works that the Father has given me to finish - the very works that I am doing - testify that the Father has sent me.
Quite apart from that (37, 38) … the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. Their problem is that they have never heard his voice nor seen his form, - nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.
It is then that he says You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, … he adds yet you refuse to come to me to have life. He is pointing to the Scriptures then, to the Bible, as another major source of testimony to him. With these two verses in mind I want to say four things to you

1. Here is a good practice but that in itself can guarantee nothing
Jesus begins by saying You search the Scriptures. By the Scriptures he means, of course, what we now call the Old Testament Scriptures – the Bible, the Word of God as it is. These people did search the Scriptures, they studied them, they worked hard at examining them. And Jesus doesn't object to them doing that. Far from it, that was one of the better characteristics of these people. It is good that people search the Scriptures.
Many people do study the Scriptures. The Pharisees especially were famous for it. There have been many scholars since who do the same thing. Today there still many like that. Some of them are university professors and they write very learned tomes on these things. Others are of a more amateur sort but they study the Scriptures and are able to come up with all sorts of things about the Bible. Some are quite liberal and simply want to debunk traditional views. They look for errors, anything that will undermine the real truth. Others are rather cranky. Remember that book that came out a few years ago and was a bestseller The Bible Code. Many others have claimed to have found secret codes in the Bible as well. You have heard of Kabbalah which became very popular with some a few years ago. The Kabbalists have been coming up with that sort of thing for years.
It is right that we should be encouraged to read the Bible. It does contain wonderful things. Sometimes people are encouraged in this direction by stories like this one (which comes in various forms but is probably based on something that H G Wells wrote many years ago in the nineteenth century).
A young man was getting ready to graduate from college. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealer's showroom, and knowing his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted.
As Graduation Day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car. Finally, on the morning of his graduation, his father called him into his private study. His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son, and told him how much he loved him. He handed his son a beautifully wrapped gift box. Curious, and somewhat disappointed, the young man opened the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible, with the young man's name embossed in gold.
Rather angry, he shouted at his father and said "with all your money, you give me a Bible?" and stormed out of the house.
Many years passed and the young man became successful in business. He had a beautiful home and a wonderful family, but he realised that his father was getting old, and he thought perhaps he should go see him. He had not seen him since that graduation day.
Before he could make arrangements, he received a telegram telling him his father had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to his son. He needed to come home immediately and take care of things.
When he arrived at his father's house, sudden sadness and regret filled his heart. He began to search through his father's important papers and saw the still gift-wrapped Bible, just as he had left it, years before. With tears, he opened the Bible and began to turn the pages. His father had carefully underlined a verse, Matt.7:11, And if ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father which is in Heaven, give to those who ask Him?
As he read those words, a car key dropped from the back of the Bible. It had a tag with the dealer's name, the same dealer who had the sports car he had wanted. On the tag was the date of his graduation, and the words PAID IN FULL!
Now, as far as it goes, the story is good in that it says read the Bible, you don't know what treasure you might be missing out on and I certainly want to encourage you to study the Scriptures. Search them, research them. Do all the study in them you can. Take time to read them every day. Get to know them as well as you can.
However, it's important that you don't see this as an open sesame. Merely searching the Scriptures guarantees nothing in and of itself. These people searched the Scriptures but they didn't benefit from them. It did them no good.
Some people who don't live in London wished they did. The things they would do if only they lived in London – the plays, the musicals, the museums, etc. We live in London and we know that it is not that simple. Just living here is not enough. If you want to do all there is to do you still need time and money and the energy to do it all.
Similarly, reading the Scriptures, searching them, is good but guarantees nothing of itself. So, search the Scriptures but realise that this good practice guarantees nothing.

2. Here is a correct idea but that in itself can guarantee nothing
Jesus goes on by saying for in them you think you have eternal life. Now again they were right and they were wrong. Jesus recognised that they saw the Bible as the key to eternal life. He does not argue with that for one moment. It is in this book that the key is found However, even if you know that you are still not quite there.
Yes, the Jews accepted that there was a coming resurrection to life and they hoped to take part in that world to come but they thought that the way to it was by means of doing good deeds. They thought that because they were Jews and kept the law (they thought they kept the law) this would lead to eternal life.
No doubt there are people today who read the Bible and they read the Bible because they think that it will give them eternal life. However, if you do not know how the Bible will lead you to eternal life then it will be of no use to you.
Did you hear the story of the man who went on the holiday of a lifetime to America and wanted to take good pictures so that he would remember it and be able to share with others. He borrowed his son's Gopro camera. Sadly, he put it in selfie mode and so all his pictures were of himself (except for one selfie he tried to take). At one point he says “Look at that for a view of the mountains. Isn’t it stunning? There’s the Trump Tower – same colour as his hair.”
All you actually see is his face again. The video is on Youtube. 
Now there are people who are doing the same thing with the Bible. They believe it will lead them to eternal life and it will but they are going about things all the wrong way.
I trust you are not making the same mistake.

3. Here is a vital thing to understand if the good practice and the correct idea are to be of any value to you
Jesus then says and these these Scriptures are they which testify of Me. Here is the key to it all. If you fail to see this then all your Scripture reading will be of no use, all your realising that the Bible is the key to eternal life will do you no good.
I happened to flick through the channels on the TV the other day at home and I came across a woman telling a story. It was about how she and some friends of her had got into a party by saying at the door “we are friends of Peter's” which they were not. She was able to get away with it for a while until someone began to ask her questions. “What's your connection with Peter?” she was asked. Instead of opening up she claimed to have been in university with him. Where? In Manchester. Anyway after a few more a painful moments describing her deceit. She explained that in fact this party was a memorial one. Peter had died a year before from cancer. The party was a fund raiser organised by friends who wanted to remember him and raise money for charity. She and her friends felt pretty embarrassed you can imagine.
Now you may read your Bible every day and you may say you think it will lead you to eternal life but if you don't understand what it is really about then you will get nowhere. You need to see that it is all about Jesus
Let me give you some examples
Let's start with Genesis 3:15 where God says And I will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. That is what happened at the cross – Satan struck Christ's heel and he did die but at that moment Satan's head was crushed. He will rise no more. This was God's purpose from before the fall.
In Exodus we read of the Passover Lamb by means of which the Israelites escape the Angel of death. John the Baptist points to Jesus and says
Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. 
Think too of the rock which Moses struck in the desert and water flowed. Paul says very boldly in 1 Corinthians 10:4 
they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 
In Leviticus we read of Aaron the High Priest who represented the people. The Book of Hebrews reveals that Christ is our High Pries who has gone not into the Holiest place of the Temple but into heaven itself on behalf of his people.
In Deuteronomy 18:18 God says through Moses 
I will raise up for them a prophet like you like Moses from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. That Prophet is Jesus. 
Have you read that bit in Joshua before the Battle of Jericho (5:13-15) where Joshua sees 
a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, Are you for us or for our enemies? Neither, he replied, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come. etc
And what did Joshua do next? He fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?" 
He is told by The commander of the LORD's army … Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy. And Joshua did so. He is meeting with none other than the Second Person of the Trinity. 
When you come to the Book of Judges you learn about the judges or saviours who led the people then. They were all flawed individuals. They remind us that Jesus is the Saviour that God's people really need – One like them, raised up by God, filled with God’s Spirit. One who rescues people, who fights for them and defeats their enemies, who provides lasting peace and security for God's people. Jesus is the Saviour the people were longing for. One not flawed like the Judges but better than all the judges put together.
After Judges comes Ruth where we learn how Boaz becomes a guardian and redeemer to the outsider and cast off Ruth. He is referred to as Guardian-redeemer many times in the second half of the book.
Boaz and Ruth are ancestors of David the King, who himself points to his greater Son in so many ways. We saw this morning how he defeated Goliath as representative of his people and fought on their behalf.
There are many other places where we can see this so obviously.
In Job 19:25-27 Job says 
I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes - I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! Again in Esther you have the idea of one representative of the people, the Jews, who are under threat of extinction. Esther goes into the King and pleads on their behalf, saving not only herself but all the people too.
Psalms is full of prophecies about Christ. We mentioned some this morning. What about Psalm 2:6-9 (God says) I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain. I will proclaim the LORD's decree: He said to me, "You are my son; today I have become your father. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.
Proverbs teaches us that Christ is our wisdom from heaven. 
In Isaiah 9:6 we read 
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In Isaiah 53:3 we read He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Jeremiah 23:5 The days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.
Ezekiel 34:23, 24 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken.
It is Jonah's three days and three nights in the great fish that point to the death and rising again of Christ. 
Zechariah 9:9 says Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Malachi 4:2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.
You can argue about exactly how you see Christ in Scripture but he is its theme. That is what it is all about. Have you seen that? It is vital to grasp.
4. Here is a tragic mistake to avoid if you have understood this much
What Jesus actually says to his hearers is You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
Because these men were so opposed to Jesus they refused to come to him. The truth is that the Bible that they claimed they loved so much is full of Jesus Christ but they had decided they would not go to him for eternal life and so in fact they were about to lose it all – Christ, the Bible and eternal life itself.
Don't make that mistake. The Bible is the source of eternal life. It is all about Christ. It is through Christ that eternal life is known. In this same chapter he says (24)
Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. That is the transition we all need to make. It is possible only through Jesus Christ.