Reading and learning and knowing- “above all”

St Paul lets slip his love of true knowledge in 2 Timothy 4: 13 – When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Above all, he wrote, as if that was what he valued more than the other things he could have asked for. He knew the day of his departure, his execution drew near. How many months would it be before the blade separated his head from his body? He could have asked for other things, but why he did he ask for his books and parchments? Books, which according to the original Greek, meant papyrus scrolls that probably carried the ancient scriptures of Israel. And above all – parchments, which probable referred to the animal skinned version of today’s books. What’s in them? Perhaps memories of those close to Jesus who recorded his sayings and deeds in these durable material. Paul was trained a rabbi, so he could recite the whole Pentateuch from “in the beginning” to “in the sight of all Israel”. He knew all the interpretations of all the biblical schools of thought. He had supernatural encounters with Christ and had heavenly visions. He had vast experiences of suffering for the gospel and knowledge of church planting. Yet he said, “above all” bring the parchments. He had a hunger to learn, and to fellowship with God. He had much time in prison, and he wanted to end his last days in the company of “friends” – some books of the Old Testament, and fragments of what may possibly one day be part of the gospels. We have missed this in our day of digital idolatry – the relishing of scriptures and fellowship with the Living God that those scriptures point to. Paul knew the scriptures were not Christ; he knew though that like signboards or photographs they showed what the real thing was like. As in Paradise, God walks in the Holy Scriptures, seeking man, says Ambrose of Milan.

It was the real thing he was after. His cry, even near death, was “that I may know Him” more and more intimately. What a truly Spirit educated man! Never ever give up on reading scriptures till your dying day. Lord, let that be true of us as well. Let our heart beat again with the “above all”.

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