How a New Testament Marathon Brought New Perspective
Sometimes I forget that the Word of God is not confined to manuscript study. I love manuscript study and have learned so much from it. But I’ve spent so much time circling words, color-coding themes, and scribbling in the margins that I have occasionally found myself drowning in my passion for literature rather than the Lord. I forget that the Word is God-breathed, and find that I haven’t allowed space for either myself or the Word to breathe.
A year ago, that perspective changed. Two students from my chapter decided to put on a New Testament Marathon, and set about planning for us to come together and read the New Testament aloud, from beginning to end, in one sitting. We signed up for shifts, staked out blankets, and brought snacks.
I showed up with some skepticism.
It sounded cool and even fun in a weird, Christian culture kind of way, but I wasn’t really sure what the point was. How were we going to find the meaning amidst all of those words if we didn’t pause to look for it?
“Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
That’s precisely where I was wrong. I was completely unprepared for what God was going to do with his Word and my heart in the next 15 hours and 9 minutes.
Somewhere along the way, I lost track of time. I stopped thinking about when we would get to the next book, when we would shift to the next reader. I just listened to the Word, the way that some of the first Christians did: in a dark hidden place, in the company of other believers, with nothing else to distract from the sounds of the vowels and the consonants sliding together.
Suddenly, that Word was precious to me. It was powerful. I began to see the meaning in it, completely unaided by colored pencils and underlines, because I could hear a verse and remember what was read hours ago that echoed the same theme or message. I began to connect the dots because I had stopped focusing on the exact shape of their curve.
And friends, that day changed the way that my heart beats when I think of heaven. The promises of Revelation 21 take on completely new meaning when you have been wading through the works of Christ, his death and resurrection, and our struggles and triumphs in this life for hours beforehand. The pictures of hope contained in that second-to-last chapter of Revelation—the promise of something new and restored, and the knowledge that one day we will reach the end of our struggles and be unabashedly and permanently living as the people of God in his presence—are all things we talk about, but they became ferociously real to me early that morning when my friends began to read the final words John wrote.
Alive, Active, and Powerful
My point is not that Bible Marathons are a magic key for unlocking secrets of Scripture. Rather, the point is simply this: the Word of our Lord is alive. It is living, and it is active. It is sharper than any double-edged sword, and it penetrates to our very soul and spirit, our very bone and marrow. It lays bare our heart. And it is more than powerful enough to do this on its own, without help from us.
Let’s not forget the wonder of what it is to hang on God’s words, and to trust them to not return to him empty, just as he has promised us. These are the words that are powerful enough to endure, from the beginning of time until the old order of things gives way to a new heaven and a new earth. They will never pass away.
What lessons are those words teaching you?
Jen Herrmann is an InterVarsity student and chapter president at the University of Oklahoma. She’s double majoring in Professional Writing and Film and Media Studies. You can see some of her media work atvimeo.com/jeniffles.
During Holy Week, consider engaging God’s Word in a new way through: