Friday, January 19, 2007

Religion: (About) 100 Words on Disciple IV – The Gospel of John: Bread

The author of the Gospel of John was perhaps the best writer found in the New Testament when one considers the literary merits of the text. this author was a master of imagery, metaphor, and allegory. The lesson two weeks ago dealt with "Incarnation" - "the Word made Flesh." Every interpreter today claims this as God becomes human (ostensibly to increase his or her credibility among those lower than angels). If we were to interpret logos as "idea" rather than "word" we might come closer to the true essence of what Jesus was. Is it so bad to be considered an idea? Idea is close to Ideal, ideal being the most perfect hoped for. Might this not be the way to view Jesus, as the Ideal Idea, that concept that personifies His message of love, truth, and beauty?
In this segment devoted to "Bread," we students are exposed to the author's metaphor, "the Bread of Life."

Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.

Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

The author efficiently uses "Bread" as a metaphor representing several things at once, all integrated with one another. This is theology development at white heat. Jesus is the Bread of Life: Bread, as the provider of sustinence, bread, as the product of toil, bread as knowledge, bread as a vehicle for community - breaking bread among one another. Jesus carries the metaphor further with the equation of his flesh with the bread. This shocks the listeners as it was politically intended to do. Jesus wishes that his committment be understood. When considering ham and eggs fro breakfast, the chicken is just involved in the transaction while the pig is committed to it. Jesus is not the manna of Moses, which was finite. Jesus is an infinite source.

© Copyright, C. Michael Bailey, 2007