We’ve all seen photo mosaics before. If you zoom in close, you can see lots of little pictures, each with their own little details. Bit if you stay zoomed in, you can’t make sense of the big picture. If you step back, you can see how all those little pictures fit together into one big picture.
The Bible is the same way. Sure, it can be enjoyable to pick out a random Bible verse or story we like, and we can admire the little details. But if we’re only looking at the tiny pictures, it can make it really difficult to figured out how to use some parts of the Bible.
Sure, some verses are good to highlight and put on refrigerator magnets. But what about those verses in Leviticus that describe how different bodily fluids can make a person unclean? Those verses don’t make good magnets. Sure, some Bible stories make really good children’s books. But what about the story where Simeon and Levi murder a whole village of men who were sore from being circumcised? When is the last time you attended a Shechem-themed VBS? Yes, there is value in studying Bible stories up close on their own, or on meditating on a particular verse. But to really make sense of the whole Bible, we have to take a big step back.
Think about Jesus’ conversation with his disciples when He first appeared to them after his resurrection (Luke 24:36-49). As Jesus tried to explain what what had just happened, He said, “Thus it is written, that Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations beginning at Jerusalem” (vs. 46-47).
What Scripture was Jesus quoting? Where was it written in the Old Testament that the Messiah was to suffer and rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations? Absolutely nowhere in particular. There’s not a single Old Testament Scripture that says that. At least not until we take a big step back and look at the big picture story. Once we look at the big picture, we can see that the death and resurrection of the Messiah, and the necessity of preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations, is written everywhere!
Jesus wasn’t making up an imaginary scripture. He was in the habit of thinking about the big picture story. We should develop that same habit.