Reading the Bible with Jesus . . . and Bryan

Bryan Moyer Suderman looks at how Jesus is portrayed as an interpreter of Scripture in the gospels

September 24, 2014 | God at work in Us | Number 19
By Dave Rogalsky | Eastern Canada Correspondent
Bryan Moyer Suderman

Bryan Moyer Suderman (SmallTallMusic.com) sees his music work over the past 11 years as an outgrowth of his desire to have Scripture alive in the church.

He has been active in Community Mennonite Church, Stouffville, Ont., as a youth and adult Bible teacher for years, and has worked to have singable music for young and old to join in those Bible stories.

What for some looks like a more recent development as a Bible teacher has deep roots for Suderman. It was the Being a Faithful Church focus of Mennonite Church Canada over the past few years on how the church uses the Bible that led him to begin a daily discipline of looking at the gospels and how Jesus and his contemporary Bible teachers used the Bible.

Once a week he would send out an e-mail to a few friends in the Markham-Stouffville Mennonite Ministerial with thoughts about what he had been studying. This led that group to ask him to lead a study on the Gospel of Mark for four weeks for local congregants.

“It was a diverse group,” says Suderman, “both theologically and in regard to how they address current issues.”

He was encouraged to see the trust and integrity with which participants entered into the study. “I think that paying close attention to how Jesus is portrayed as interpreter of Scripture is a challenge to people on all sides of the theological spectrum—both those who might be tempted to toss out the Bible [thinking that is what Jesus did with his ‘you have heard it said to you, but I say’ sayings] and those who might say ‘this verse in Leviticus says this,’ and think that is the end of the discussion,” Suderman says. “When we pay close attention to the way Jesus is portrayed as dealing with Scripture, you’d be hard pressed to make either of those arguments.”

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Suderman has consistently been surprised by Jesus, who, in discussion with the Bible teachers of his day, would introduce a new stream of Scripture into a topic with a new twist on understanding God.

Suderman is aware that that the four gospel portrayals of Jesus by different authors provide readers with different perspectives and have different goals, but they each portray Jesus as fully engaged with “his” Scriptures—today’s Old Testament—using them, and interpreting and encouraging people to live with them in mind.

The process he used for his own study, and uses for teaching, is to:

  • Read the gospels.
  • Notice the use of Old Testament passages.
  • Ponder how it is interpreted by both Jesus and others in his time, and how they deal with what the Scriptures say, looking for patterns in use, interpretation and application.

A copy of his Mark study can be found at http://bit.ly/X6GdBk.

The latest development in his scriptural journey is a series of four one-day retreats, each one focussing on a different gospel, to take place at Willowgrove in Stouffville, Ont., over the next seven months: Oct. 24 to 25, Nov. 28 to 29, Feb. 6 to 7, and April 10 to 11. Suderman hopes people will come to listen to Scripture and each other, trust each other even when they disagree, and hear anew—or perhaps for the first time—how Jesus treated “his” Bible.

“My hope is that spending this time together, paying close attention to how we see Jesus depicted as interpreter of Scripture regarding hot-button issues of first-century Palestine, can help us learn to be better interpreters of Scripture ourselves in our own discernment of hot-button issues today,” he says

--Posted Sept. 24, 2014

Bryan Moyer Suderman

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