Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. When the Pharisees saw this, they accused Jesus of encouraging His disciples to violate the Sabbath. Jesus countered,
Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? (Matthew 12:1–5).
Jesus, who could read hearts, already knew whether and when the Pharisees had read those passages of Scripture. But He asked the question to force them to consider whether they had truly grasped the meaning of those passages. Or whether, perhaps, they had conveniently ignored them.
Jesus often phrased that question to people who demonstrated a willful misunderstanding of God’s word.
Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:3-6, cf Matthew 22:23-33).
I wonder how often Jesus would pose the same question if He were here today? With these four little words, Jesus reminds us that revealed Scripture is the standard of all doctrine and behavior. Not “what do you think?” but “what do you read?” His followers might find opportunity to ask the question, too.
To one who protests that a man once saved can never lose his salvation, we might say: Have you not read 2 Peter 2:20-21? It says, “If, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.”
To one who insists on Mary’s perpetual virginity, we might say: Have you not read Matthew 13:55? There, the multitudes cried out, “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?”
To one who demands others keep the Sabbath, we might say: Have you not read Colossians 2:16? It says, “No one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”
To one who solemnizes gay marriage: Have you not read 1 Corinthians 6:9-10? It says, “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals … will inherit the kingdom of God.”
To one who believes Jesus is but an angel: Have you not read John 20:28? When Thomas said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God,” Jesus praised his statement of faith.
To one who relies on the writings of Joseph Smith, because he claimed to have received them in the form of golden disks from an angel named Moroni: Have you not read Galatians 1:6–9? Paul said, “Even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed.”
To one who believes there is no eternal Hell, we might say: Have you not read Revelation 20:10? There, John testified, “The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
These are but a few false teachings which can be refuted by clear, incontrovertible passages. Jesus knew when He said, “Have you not read…?” that those open and honest hearts in the audience would be persuaded by His invitation to look at God’s plain word. The question, “Have you not read…?” recognizes that God has given human beings the intelligence to draw the right conclusions when they read the fullness of the Scriptures. Let us become competent in God’s word, and share its truth with others who have not had the opportunity to search it. —John Guzzetta