Recently I’ve been noticing a change in terms of how I’ve been preaching biblical texts. This whole two-book idea that I’ve been living into is leading me to approach the scriptural text with different/new questions. When I preached on the story of the Roman Centurion last month, I asked myself, “Where is God’s Spirit already at work in the story before Jesus formally makes the scene?” Clearly there was a common grace move of God in the Centurion’s love for his slave, his care for the Jewish people (he built their synagogue), and the Jewish elder’s love and respect for their Roman ‘oppressor’ (in so passionately bringing his case to Jesus). God worked through all of these things (along with Jesus’ direct intervention of course!) to heal a slave that he obviously wanted to heal.
What would it mean to bring this question to all of my biblical exegesis? I would imagine that every single narrative would contain an element of common grace within it; God preparing the way, setting the scene for his work through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, his prophets, kings and disciples. If I had another lifetime, I’d like to go through the entire bible and pull out and unpack these already at work instances. What could all of the bible’s modelling of common grace teach us in terms of identifying the common grace movements of the Spirit today?
Last week I caught myself asking another new question (sort of) of a different text. I was preaching on the story of Jesus healing the man born blind from John 9. Obviously the gospel writer composed the chapter with theological intent in mind. At seminary they teach you to try and get into his head a bit in order to better understand the passage. What I did went a bit further. I tried to imagine what it would have been like for John to witness/live into the events of that ‘blind man healed’ day.
First, he’s walking along with Jesus, and along with all of the other disciples, trying to know him more.
Then, he’s one of the crowd who figures the ‘blind guy must be being punished for someone’s sin…’
Then, his works based, superficial, tit for tat, theological worldview gets blown away when Jesus tells them that this isn’t about who sinned; about God’s glory!
Then he experiences the GLORY of the healing!…
Then he sees that glory juxtaposed w/ the spiritual blindness of those Pharisaical religious leaders (who were so sure of how & when & where God works… so blinded by what they thought they “knew”… that they couldn’t glorify and enjoy God in the moment!)…
Then, even as he’s filled with incredulity at the fact that they can’t see… he gets to watch this newly sighted man see Jesus for who he really is, for the first time!… and confess, “Lord I believe!”
I imagine John watching all of this, and seeing the accumulation of all of these events as a sort of parable; a real time, over the course of the day, via several circumstances being strung together, word of God. A word of God, which in the recording and writing was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and then affirmed by the early church as authoritative, and then affirmed again when the canon of scripture was measured out and defined 350 years later.
If I had another lifetime, it would be cool to take all of our thinking into authorial intent to this next step. How could how the author saw life’s story – early Hebrew history, the life of a certain king, Isaac’s narrative, a prophet’s ecstatic utterances - teach us to see the Spirit’s moves today?