Jesus said to them, “have you never read in the Scriptures: …” Matthew 21:42
This is just one of six times in Matthew’s Gospel that he records Jesus making this statement. It is quite an extraordinary thing that Jesus would say this to the chief priests, scribes and elders (vv 15, 23) who would have known the Scriptures better than anyone else. They most certainly had read and studied the passages that Jesus quoted to them and may even have memorised them. Their problem was that they had not understood them as applying to Jesus. They did not want to recognise Jesus as Messiah no matter what the evidence from Scripture or from His words and deeds. They did not want to recognise His authority.
It is possible for us to put blinkers on at a superficial understanding of Scripture and become blind to a more complete comprehension that will give us a greater appreciation of what we are reading. How often does it happen that, having read a passage of Scripture many times over the years that we gain a greater appreciation of what is written? An oft repeated statement is, “I have read that many times but I never saw that before.” It isn’t that we misunderstood it before but that we now have a greater appreciation of what is written.
The reason Jesus frequently quotes the Scriptures and why Matthew records them is so that people might begin to make the comparison and connection of the Scriptures with Jesus. When they do, with honest and open hearts, the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth concerning Jesus.
If we are content with our early understanding of Scripture we will likely become like the scribes and chief priests and focus on outward religious performance rather than heart intimacy with Jesus. It is a trap awaiting any of us. Jesus is not a set of rules. He is a living Person with whom we may live every moment of every day. Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love Him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” He will make His home in our hearts. WOW!
The scribes, chief priests and the elders knew the Scriptures well but they did not recognise who Jesus is. As it was for them it is possible for us to understand a literal rendering of the Scriptures but not know the Lord Jesus. It is possible for us to know the Scriptures but not be intimate with Him. The answer to this situation is found in Jesus’ words to the church in Laodicea, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” It isn’t the one who hears the knock only but the ones who hears His voice that opens the door. What is the difference, you ask? The one who hears His voice recognises a familiar friend because of a previous intimate relationship; “they know His voice” (John 10:3-4).