Jesus is teaching scripture. Why? Jesus knew something that we have forgotten, that scripture can be life changing. He read the same words that had been heard in that location, every year for many years, but people heard them afresh. Geezers moved up front to hear Jesus better. Teenagers sat up. Suddenly, one of the trustees was on the floor, rolling, spitting, and shouting out, “We know who you are!” There is power in these dusty, old Torah rolls when Jesus handles them.
Melvin the Scribe returns from vacation the next week asking how the sub did. Week after week, Melvin carefully prepares his little homily at the Capernaum Synagogue so that it includes three cute stories; one about kittens, one about football, and one a rambling remembrance of his days at seminary. He hopes that these stories will make the lesson relevant, though they only bear passing resemblance to the week’s scriptures. They are like muppets pretending to be men. Then he gives a brief moral, like, treat people better, or, consider raising your weekly offering a few shekels. The real problem, however, is that Melvin no longer finds scripture to be relevant to his own life.
What gives the reading of scripture punch? Obviously, our belief that these very words are inspired by God, literally God-breathed. Those who follow Jesus’ example must wake up each morning and read their Bibles with a fervent hope that the words will prove themselves to be useful, and perhaps even transformative, in the hours ahead. Those who preach the word must believe in its inherent relevance. Only by application of scripture to our own lives, do we avoid the common practice of reading God’s words for two minutes, and then, grinding our own ax for fifteen. Stop looking for good illustrations. Preach the word.