How many of you have heard of Artificial Intelligence?  At this point, I think we all have heard of AI, at the very least.  We get advertisements for it.  We see it popping up more and more on our phones and computers.  It’s funny because I’m from the generation who grew up without the internet, and any movie we watched that spoke of artificial intelligence basically led to robots taking over the human race, so I’m a bit worried about this AI stuff because growing up watching movies in the 80’s this is how the machines always take over the world!  So, with every commercial I see and every new AI-generated something out there, I try to keep warning people of the dangers ahead, or at the least, I keep trying to remind people of the movies that warned us what could happen!  I’m mostly joking, but it makes me a little nervous; I’m keeping an eye on this artificial intelligence thing!  You know, it’s amazing how technology keeps growing.  But for all our advancements, it seems to me that we can look at Scripture and see Jesus pointing out a version of artificial intelligence quite often, and that is what we will be getting into today.  Now, this has nothing to do with computers and the internet thinking for us and guiding our lives but has everything to do with those who have a lot of knowledge about the Scriptures yet zero ability to either understand it or zero desire to live out what they claim to believe and know in their hearts and minds about God, God’s Word, and how to live as God desires.  I think that is the true definition of artificial (or fake) intelligence.  It’s obtaining knowledge about God and The Scriptures and learning how to live your best life possible without applying it to your life.  Or worse, there is no desire to obey any of the commands or teachings you read in Scripture.  This was the heartbreaking reality that Jesus faced in His time on this Earth, and quite frankly, it’s something we still see today.

Today, we continue our summer Bible study called The Simple Questions of Jesus.  We are spending the summer diving into these important and often challenging questions that Jesus asked to all different kinds of people.  Some of these questions were asked to his disciples and those who wanted to follow Him.  Some were asked of people who needed something from Him, and some were asked of people who were in desperate need of healing.  Some were asked in casual conversations as He traveled or ate with people, and some were asked in the middle of intense confrontations with people who wanted Him dead.  But all of these questions, regardless of who He asked them to, can help us personally when we stop, slow down, and take the time to answer them for ourselves.  That is why I view this series as more of an exercise than a Bible study.  That is an important distinction to make as we walk through this series because we want you to personalize these questions from Jesus.  That is how we should be reading Scripture!  We should try our best to slow down, get focused, think through what we are reading, and process what God’s Word means to us personally.  This is a big deal and can impact our lives in such positive ways, but for that to happen,  it takes slowing down, leaning into the questions, and engaging it.  If we do, it can be life-changing; if we don’t, we can miss out on all that God’s Word has to offer us.  There is a reason Jesus asked so many questions: He knows us so well and understands the best way for us to truly learn, grow, and personalize God’s Word!  When we challenge ourselves to answer them, it can lead us to our best lives possible.  So this exercise is important, and answering these questions of Jesus for ourselves gives us a unique opportunity to grow into the people God created us to be!

I loved Ken’s talk last week on this question: If I’m telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me?  It is so challenging.  If we acknowledge that what Jesus says is The Truth, why do we seem to fight Him on things?  When we slow down and personalize that question, it can be really convicting, can’t it?  Ken pressed in on fear and worry in our lives.  He showed us that Jesus said we shouldn’t worry about our lives.  That our worry is useless and has no power.  In fact, with all our worries, we can’t add one hour to our life; it’s just wasted energy.  Instead, Jesus told us to let go of our worries and seek God…First!  We are to stop focusing on our worry and focus on God, but that is easier said than done. Ken said that if we struggle to believe in Jesus, it is time to settle into our exercise and answer this question from Jesus.  If I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me?  It was an awesome talk and such a big moment in our lives if we take the time to personalize that question from Jesus.

Today, we will look at another very important question from Jesus.  Earlier, I mentioned that Jesus asked questions to all kinds of people.  Sometimes, He asked questions of friends and people who wanted to follow Him.  Sometimes, it’s people in need of help or healing.  Sometimes, it’s at parties or dinners or walking around with friends; those are nice times.  But, sometimes, he asks questions in more intense and confrontational moments with people who want to be angry with Him, so angry they are looking for ways to kill Him!  That is the kind of moment that we find our question today, but wow, can this one help us with something that is so important for us to own in our lives, and that is God’s Word?  So, I’m going to give you the question here on the front end with some context to it, and then we will talk for a bit.  So here’s the question, “Have you never read in the Scriptures?”

This question is found twice in Matthew 21, which begins the most intense week of Jesus’ time on Earth. It starts with what we call Palm Sunday, the amazing moment when Jesus enters Jerusalem as the people cheer for Him, laying their cloaks and palm branches on the ground and screaming Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  These are the same people who will be screaming “Crucify Him!” in just a few short days!  Cheering and honoring Him on Sunday, screaming for his death in just a few short days.  So, that is where we are and where we find our question from Jesus.  We are at the beginning of Holy Week, the most intense week possible for Jesus.  So Jesus has entered the city, and Scripture tells us He caused quite a scene!

Matthew 21:12 Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'” 14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. 16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” 17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night. NIV

So, Jesus caused quite a stir in the city. He came in with the crowds cheering, then cleared out the temple and began healing people. And once again, keeping tabs on Him is the “fun police,” otherwise known as the religious leaders and teachers of the law. They aren’t happy when they see all the good things he is doing and hear the children shouting and cheering Hosanna in the temple for Him. They ask Jesus about it, and He asks them this question:  Have you never read?  Then, He quotes a Psalm that He knows they absolutely have read.  Later, the fun police confront Him in the temple again; this time, they question what authority Jesus is teaching, healing, and doing miracles under.  This leads to a moment where Jesus tells two parables, the first about a father and his two sons, the second about a man who owned a vineyard and rented it to some farmers who turned on the owner.  It took them a moment or two, but the religious leaders realized that these parables were about them and were not happy about it.  We then see Jesus ask the question again…

Matthew 21:42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” NIV

So, two times here in Matthew 21, Jesus asks the question Have you never read the Scriptures, then quotes a Psalm that He knows with certainty that the religious leaders have read.  In fact, every time we see Jesus questioning whether someone is reading the Scriptures, it’s always to those He knows are reading them!  That is important for us to see.  Jesus doesn’t ask someone who is trying to figure out their faith, “Have you never read your Bible?” No, He asks this of those He knows for a fact read their Bibles and would know and could recite the Scriptures that He is pointing to!  Twice here in Matthew 21, “Have you never read?”  Then, he points to two Psalms He knows they have read.  Think about this.  Jesus asks a group of powerful and well-educated religious leaders if they have ever read a particular passage from the Scriptures. He knows they have, and He knows the pride they have in their knowledge of the Scriptures.  But He asks the question to show that they have missed the point of what they have read and studied.  This isn’t the only time we see this type of confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders.  Here are a couple of examples.  Here, they are confronting Jesus about how His followers are violating the rules of the Sabbath.

Matthew 12:1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” 3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread — which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” NIV

Do you see it?  Have you never read?  He knows they have.  He knows they would know the Scriptures He is pointing to!  The problem is they are missing the point.  Let’s look at one more just for fun before we stop picking at the religious leaders and make this personal today.  In Matthew 22, they try to test him again, this time with some questions on marriage and divorce, and Jesus replies to them this way.

Matthew 22:29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. NIV

This would not have been well received because they can quote the same Scriptures Jesus says they don’t know!  They would say, we know the scriptures and the power of God!  So, Jesus asks this question to the people who do read the Bible and are very proud of how much Scripture they know, but Jesus keeps exposing a problem.  The problem is that something is missing with all this knowledge they have gained; there is a gap between what they know and believe and how they live.  So, they know the Bible, but it’s just not reflected in their lives.  This is why Jesus keeps asking them, Have you never read, while knowing they have!  Let’s face it: having knowledge is great, but if it’s just facts in your mind and not applied to your life or leading toward your best life, it’s not worth much.  Jesus quite literally exposes this problem very clearly and very publicly in Matthew 23.

Matthew 23:2 “The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. 3 You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. MSG

We pick on the religious leaders a lot but think about how difficult this must be for them.  They were the godly of people at that time.  They know more scripture than anyone.  They are proud of how they studied and how closely they follow the religious rules. I’m sure most people look up to them, and I’m sure they were very proud of their knowledge and positions.  I’m sure they were treated with great respect.  But Jesus shows up and exposes every issue of their hearts, and worse, He does it publicly.  Not only does he expose the heart issues that they like to keep hidden, but he keeps pointing to all they know and asking them what good it is if they don’t live it out.  I want you to think about the world they lived in; they were the best of the best, with the best jobs and education.  They were leaders who dedicated their lives to the things Jesus kept asking them if they knew anything about!  This would be a challenging thing, and well, we know they never do accept Jesus and end up killing Him just a few days later.  So, that is the backdrop of the question of the day, Jesus asking the godly and those He knows do read the Scriptures; “Have you never read the Scriptures?  His point is that if you had read it, wouldn’t you have lived differently?  Wouldn’t it be reflected in your thinking, choices, and lives?  Well, this gives us a lot to talk about today.  These men knew The Scriptures, but Jesus kept exposing them, pointing out that it’s artificial intelligence of the finest kind.  They know the Scriptures, but they don’t know the Scriptures.  They know the Scriptures but don’t grasp the heart of the Scriptures.  They know the Scriptures, but they don’t live out the Scriptures…their lives contradict the Scriptures and their teaching.  They know the Scriptures, but only in a way that fits their agenda and their own beliefs, rather than reading them with an open heart and mind.  Jesus explained in John 5 that they weren’t allowing the  Scriptures to guide them; they used them to validate their beliefs and for their own agendas…it’s like only watching or gaining information that fits what you want things to be…that is having a closed mind and heart to God’s Will. I would say that is using God’s Word rather than being open to being led by God’s Word, and people still do this today.

John 5:37 The Father who sent me, confirmed me. And you missed it. You never heard his voice, you never saw his appearance. 38 There is nothing left in your memory of his Message because you do not take his Messenger seriously. 39 “You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! 40 And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want. 41 “I’m not interested in crowd approval. 42 And do you know why? Because I know you and your crowds. I know that love, especially God’s love, is not on your working agenda. MSG

I tell you often that these men were paid to identify Christ when He arrived, and I find it fascinating how they missed Him! But Jesus explains that they are so closed-minded. They have their own agendas and can’t see that God’s Word, which they know so well, is pointing to the person right in front of them!  They had their own beliefs and were so caught up in their knowledge that they couldn’t see what was happening right in front of them.

So, let’s stop picking on the religious leaders of that time, and let’s begin to get into our exercise of personalizing this question.  If you are a Christian, I want you to picture it now: it’s just you and Jesus.  You are in a conversation, and maybe you are saying, thinking, or doing something that doesn’t line up with the Scriptures.  He looks you right in the eye and asks the question…Have you never read in the Scriptures?  How do you answer that question?

For some of us, it may be time to think through that on a very literal basis. I found a recent survey on how often we engage our Bibles as Christians today.

Reasoning of Scripture Ministries” conducted a survey that really stood out to me. They found that 35% of Christians admit they do not read the Bible at all. Of those who do claim to read Scripture, only 50% say they read the Bible daily, while another 37% read it once a week. The number one reason for not reading it is being too busy.

We read in The Scriptures that God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a guide to our paths.  We read that God’s Word is how we arm ourselves against the enemy’s lies.  But in general, Christians today have very little interest in engaging God’s Word.  So, for some of us, answering this question is literally: No, I haven’t read. If that is you, my encouragement would be to start reading Scripture!  But my heart turns to so many of us who read The Bible and know what it says yet struggle to see Scripture reflected in our lives.  While we may not struggle with things the way religious leaders did, we can struggle to allow Scripture to penetrate our hearts and minds so that it becomes part of our lives.  Jesus asks this question of all of us who walk through life and struggle to allow God’s Word to be seen, felt, and heard in our lives.  This is an important question for someone who knows a lot of Scripture but whose life doesn’t line up with what they know.  Growing up in and around church life, I know this person well, and to this day, at times, I believe we can all be this person, too!  We can read our Bibles but still violate or contradict so much of what it says.  Sometimes, it’s just pure pride and hard-hearted stubbornness.  Maybe we read the Bible like the religious leaders, where we don’t allow it to shape us; we want to use it to help our agendas and validate our beliefs, rather than reading it with that humble, open heart.  But sometimes, it’s just life and how it hits us.  Painful moments, adversity, hurts from people, the chaos of our busy lives, the enemy, and this cruel world, it all just pushes in on us, and we seem to walk through life just blocked or unable to retain God’s Word, just dazed and confused, and in that state, we are unable to process what God may be saying.  It just doesn’t get all the way into our hearts and minds.  This is why we need to slow down, try to focus, hopefully stay humble, and allow The Holy Spirit to guide our lives and bring The Word of God to life in us so that we aren’t those people walking through life proud of our Artificial Intelligence.  You know, those with a lot of knowledge of the Scriptures, but their lives contradict what they know!  When we personalize this question from Jesus, it can be a helpful way to keep our lives aligned with God’s Word.

So, this question is for the Christians today.  Those who do read God’s Word.  It’s not something some like to bring up or say out loud, but we Christians can struggle too, can’t we?  I think we all have areas that we tend to struggle with and need to work on.  It may not be this artificial intelligence of the religious leaders or the pride of religious titles or agendas. Frankly, it’s probably not.  More often than not, it is the deep and painful wounds and circumstances of our lives that we just miss the important words found in Scripture, don’t believe them to be true, or simply struggle to retain them for one reason or another.  To close today, I want us to get into the exercise now and make this moment profoundly personal.  It’s you and Jesus.  The two of you are in a conversation about your life and faith.  And I want you to really slow down and think about this.  What would you say or what do you believe in your heart about yourself or your life that would lead Jesus to ask you this question?  Have you never read in the Scriptures?  What is it?  I’m just going to walk through a few things we struggle with as Christians who know Scripture…but get very honest here: what is it for you?

Do you struggle with fear?  Have you never read?

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. NIV

Do you struggle with anxiety and just seem to wear anxiety in your life? Have you never read?

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. NIV

Do you struggle with your value and self-worth? Have you never read?

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. NLT

Do you struggle to believe that your sins are forgiven because you think that may work for others but couldn’t for you because you have messed up so badly?  Have you never read?

Romans 3:23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. NLT

Do you look at who you are and think there is no way God could love you? Have you never read?

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. NIV

Do you struggle with loneliness?  Thinking and feeling like you are all alone?  Have you never read?

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” NIV

I could do this all day, giving you different examples of things so many of us wrestle with, even knowing that we are living, thinking, or believing something that is opposite to The Scriptures that we know and read!  So think it through; what is it for you?  What do you believe about yourself, or do that Jesus would look at you and ask the question…Have you never read in The Scriptures?  If the answer is no, I haven’t read it. I would really encourage you to begin to engage God’s Word today. But if the answer is yes, I have read it, and my life just doesn’t align with the Scriptures I read, there are some important things to consider.  First, how do you read your Scriptures? Do you have an open heart and mind?  Are you humbly reading God’s Word to learn, grow, and be led to live in a new way through God’s Word, or is it more of a closed mindset, where you either have no interest in learning or allowing God’s Word to lead your life?  Do you use God’s Word to validate what you know or believe?  Or do you allow it to shape and mold you?  Think about how you approach the Bible.  It’s so important to be open to God’s Word, allowing it to penetrate your heart and mind because it’s our guide and can lead us to our best life possible.  So please, as we close, think about your life and how you live it.  Think of the challenges you face and the things you wrestle with that may lead Jesus to ask you this question.  Have you never read in The Scriptures?  If the answer is, Jesus, I have read it, I know it…the follow-up is, then why aren’t you living it out?  That is when your life gets really fun.  It is one thing to read The Scriptures and know what they say, but it’s a whole other thing to live them out…if we don’t live out what we know, it’s just that artificial intelligence that we don’t want to see in our lives.