As we have seen, we have a new relationship with God through Jesus. And we not only speak to God in prayer, but God also has much to say to us. And the way that we learn what God has to say to us, above all else, is through study of the Scriptures.
Our focus verse for this lesson comes from Mark 4:24:
“Pay attention to what you hear.”
Now in our context, as we will see (now that Jesus’ words have been written down) we might want to say, “Pay attention to what you read.”
What are the Scriptures? Well first of all there is the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible. This is made up of 39 “books.” They can be divided into four rough categories:
1. The Law of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
2. The Story of Israel: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
3. Wisdom literature: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
4. The Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
These preserve the ancient Hebrew testimony to what God did and taught among them as God’s people.
Then we have the New Testament, made up of 27 “books” under four categories:
1. The Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
2. The Story of the Early Church: Acts
3. Letters: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John, Jude
4. Prophecy: The book of Revelation
Jesus wrote nothing. Rather, he authorized his original disciples to speak for him. He told them, “Make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” – Matthew 28:19-20. He said to them, “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” – Luke 10:16. The New Testament is the record of this apostolic witness to Jesus. It comes from the apostles and teachers from the apostolic church.
The point of our lesson is that we are to study these Scriptures. So we begin by looking at . . .
Calls to study and learn from the Old Testament
Moses said to Israel – “Listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live . . ..” – Deuteronomy 4:1. Also, the Lord said to Joshua, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” – Joshua 1:8.
The Old Testament lays out the overall plan of God’s work in this world, especially God’s work through his people Israel. It also provides God’s foundational teaching concerning his will for people. We need to study and understand it. But as we have already seen . . .
God has spoken to us even more clearly and fully through Jesus
And so we can rightly say, how much more do we need to study and understand what he says!
- Jesus is our one teacher – Matthew 23:10. He is the one who interprets Moses correctly.
- Jesus is the fulfiller of the Law of Moses – Matthew 5:17. He intensifies and perfects what is found in the Old Testament.
This is why, when Moses and Elijah (representing the Law and the prophets; the Old Testament) were there on the mount of transfiguration with Jesus, the voice of God came and said about Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him!” – Mark 9:7. We are to listen to Jesus.
Jesus brings together and sums up all of God’s plan and will for us. He is the fulfillment of all that has come before and he is the perfect and final revelation of God to us. And so for good reason . . .
Jesus calls us to learn from him
He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30. A “yoke” refers to a teacher’s teaching. He invites us to take his yoke and learn from him, both his teaching and his example.
Jesus also said in many places in reference to his teaching, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear” – Mark 4:23. And from our focus verse Jesus said, “Pay attention to what you hear”- Mark 4:24, talking about his teaching.
Not only does Jesus call us to learn from him, this idea of learning and studying is built into the very name we are given by Jesus. We are “disciples.” This is simply another name for “students.” So as disciples of Jesus we are called to be students of Jesus.
As Jesus says, the goal of a disciple is to be like their teacher: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.” – Matthew 10:24-25. We seek to live and act just as Jesus lived and acted.
How do we learn from Jesus?
Well, today we read and study the Scriptures:
1. We learn about Jesus from the Old Testament. The Old Testament points forward to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as the culmination of God’s plan of redemption for the world. Jesus said, “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” – Luke 24:44.
The Old Testament is also the background for understanding what Jesus teaches about Gods will on any given topic. As Jesus said about his teaching, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” – Matthew 5:17. There is a connection between what the Old Testament teaches and what Jesus teaches and to understand Jesus you need to understand the Old Testament.
2. We learn from Jesus by studying the gospels. These contain the apostolic witness to what Jesus said and did. As Luke puts it:
“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” – Luke 1:1-4.
Here we learn in detail about Jesus – who he is, why he came, what he taught and how to follow in his footsteps and how to be ready for his return.
3. We learn about Jesus from the rest of the New Testament. This points back to Jesus and helps us to understand the significance of his life, teaching, death and resurrection and his future return.
So it is all about Jesus, whether directly about him – the Gospels, or pointing forward to him – the Old Testament, or pointing back to him – the rest of the New Testament.
It is not always easy to understand Jesus
The disciples often didn’t understand what Jesus was teaching (Mark 7:17-18; 8:14-21). And we are separated by time and culture. And so it will take some work on our part; study. We have to take time to understand what things were like in those days in order to make sense out of the Scriptures.
But God helps us. Just after Jesus said, “Pay attention to what you hear,” he said, “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you” – Mark 4:24. Jesus encourages us to put effort into listening to and learning what he says. What he is saying is that the effort you put into it, is what you will get out of it. Except that God is generous and will add some more to our understanding. God will help us.
Study the Scriptures!
There you will learn about Jesus. There you will be equipped to live your new life in Jesus:
- you will find guidance to know God’s will for your life
- you will find encouragement through stories of others’ faithfulness, reminders of God’s character and power and Jesus’ love for us
- and you will be challenged to grow
So spend time in the Scriptures, study them and learn from them. Make it a routine part of your life. In the words of Joshua 1:8 – “meditate on it day and night.” This will strengthen and help you in your new life in Jesus.