Bread, Freedom, or a Kiss: John 6 / Grand Inquisitor

j6hj3k43Hello Lightworkers,

This post is for our Gospel of John study #35 (see the text reproduced below– all the way below the second picture):

The Grand Inquisitor, in Dostoyevsky’s parable, asks Jesus to justify his claims to freedom and his refusal of Satan’s offer. Satan offers Jesus the chance to prove his abilities, in turning  stones into bread. In Dostoyevsky’s episode, the character Ivan (who speaks for the Grand Inquisitor) argues that the ability to feed the multitudes is the basis for both political and religious authority. Human beings require to have their stomachs filled and where one aches in hunger, freedom will count as whatever thing may appease one’s appetites and guarantee one’s survival. Thus, if Jesus had wanted a popular following, he should rightly have accepted the Devil’s suggestion, to turn stones into bread.

In John 6, while Jesus does perform a miracle of feeding, he refuses to become a political king on this basis; even though the crowds wish to make him a king, Jesus escapes from their grasp.  In effect, Jesus dissents from the Grand Inquisitor’s worldview (as spoken by Ivan) and from seizing for himself spiritual authority on the basis of an economic and political platform.

In what does freedom consist? And must our survival be assured (our material needs satisfied) before freedom can be enjoyed? Dostoyevsky provides an answer which bypasses this alternative: a Kiss (this will be explained below).

In John 6, Jesus continues his miracles by feeding the five thousand (John 6:1-15). The feeding of the five thousand occurs in all four gospels. John interprets this miracle as a sign to the crowds that Jesus is King. Jesus is the long awaited “prophet like Moses,” who was expected to become King, while doing miracles reminiscent of a legendary time in Israel’s history. Just as God fed the people in the wilderness with manna, so Jesus will do so with bread. Yet, if the crowds expect Jesus to be King, it is a role that Jesus refuses: John 6:15 “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”

In this historical period, while Israel rose up against Rome, the imperial overlord, a number of leaders performed miracles, while claiming to be prophets and kings. One may read about such movements in the works of Richard Horsley here: Bandits, Prophets, Messiahs. Significant for John is that Jesus refuses the role of popular political leader or king.

Later in this chapter, Jesus will make the baffling claim that unlike Moses, he does not merely feed people with bread. Rather Jesus is himself the Bread given for the world, John 6:35 “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”. We will discuss this saying further in the next post of our Gospel of John study series.

Jesus’s refusal may be elucidated then by the Grand Inquisitor episode in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Here is the audio book version: Audio Book: Grand Inquisitor . Here is the full text of the episode: Text Grand Inquisitor Episode and here: Grand Inquisitor.

In this episode, Ivan claims that if Jesus were to return, he would be arrested by the Church and prosecuted by the Inquisition, specifically for his refusal of Satan, when Satan challenges him to turn stone in to bread. Ivan’s challenge pertains also to John 6:15, where Jesus refuses to become an earthly King, whose job is to feed and improve the material conditions of people’s lives.

The masses, Jesus says, require a political ruler who will give bread to eat. Virtue and freedom lack utility and have no substance, when economic conditions are unstable.  Regarding Jesus’s claim to provide the bread of heaven rather than earthly bread,  Ivan says: “And if for the sake of the bread of Heaven thousands shall follow Thee, what is to become of the millions and tens of thousands of millions of creatures who will not have the strength to forego the earthly bread for the sake of the heavenly?”

Ivan’s question is alive in our own day: how may we live in freedom, if our basic needs are not supplied? Shouldn’t bread come first and our needs be satisfied? Before freedom can be genuinely claimed and lived?

The response of Christ to Ivan’s challenge in this episode mirrors the response of his brother, Aloysha, who is a disciple of Jesus Christ, and it echoes a scene earlier in  the book, where the monk Zosima’s gesture to their brother Demitri, by bowing before him. Jesus responds with a kiss, which reverses the kiss of Judas, from the Gospels. Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, kisses Jesus to reveal his identity to the arresting party. He trades Jesus away for money. It is Judas who has argued that the perfume, which Mary squanders by anointing the feet of Jesus, ought to be sold and donated to the poor. Judas puts material needs above the intrinsic dignity of life itself.

Christ’s kiss in Dostoyevsky’s story does the opposite. This kiss affirms the intrinsic dignity of life and the human being. Each of us is beloved. Our beloved stature before God, not bread alone, gives us our freedom.

the-arrest-of-christ-kiss-of-judas

Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss

John 6  (NIV) Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
6 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

True Friendship

 

Jonathan David WL by Goetz

David and Jonathan

Gospel of John : #34

Friendship is a theme in the Gospel of John (John 15:15-16), so here is post on the theme of friendship.

Friendship involves: promises, commitment, imagining a life together, taking on the burdens of your friend as your own, not only wishing but also working together for the best. If we remain superficially acquainted, we are never obliged to anybody nor do we ever grow and change through the power and possibility of love.

BE SURE TO CLICK THE LINKS (BELOW).

1. Here’s Montaigne on Friendship:

Michel de Montaigne on Friendship (1580)

2. Seth Godin on Friendship: a thought-provoking idea

Seth Godin on Faux Intimacy

3. David and Jonathan on friendship:

Jonathan and David on Friendship

And also see:Article David and Jonathan

Note the conclusion: “Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.’” And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.”

4. Ruth and Naomi

Book of Ruth

Ruth and Naomi: One Perspective on their Friendship

5. Male- Female Friendships

6. Friendship between Men

7.  Friendship Between Women

Miracles: illusion or promise?

Hello Lightworkers, and people who see the miraculous in all of Life:

From the early days, Christianity has spread through miracles. Miracle and healing are claimed by old-time Pentecostal revivalists like Kathryn Kuhlman and her contemporary disciple, Benny Hinn.

Yet, some disabled people, and others who suffer devastating challenges, say they have been left in the lurch by their churches thanks to an illusory promise of miracles. The real grace of the miraculous enters into one’s life, these people say, when we embrace our limitations rather than wishing or praying them away.

Or: could it be that once we embrace our limitations, we may surpass them — so that the miracle unfolds in its own time, rather than being an instantaneous occurrence?

What’s your opinion on miracles in this regard?

  1. Here’s Kathryn Kuhlman on Miracles:

Excellent article on Kuhlman: Kuhlman Article

2. Here’s an article about Benny Hinn, which is somewhat skeptical: Benny Hinn article

And here’s an article about another miracle worker, which raises questions about miracles in the life of faith: :On Miracle vs Disability

3. See the work of Shane Clifton: Article: Shane Clifton   and the longer piece: “The Dark Side of Prayer for Healing: Toward, a Theology o f Well-Being,” by Shane Clifton; Alphacrucis College, Sydney, Australia : [article can be obtained through public library article database] — Clifton argues, on behalf of disabled people, for a theology of wellness rather than an illusory promise of miracle.

Here’s a Youtube video about disability, according to a spirituality which says that strength is made perfect in weakness: Zoe Heming: I love my disabled body

Passionate Conversion: Demons or foreign gods? Lam Jeevaratnam: Christian holy man and exorcist from India (1892-1960)

JeeveratnamAd1

As a young man and entertainer before his conversion

Hello All,

In this post, I address the mixed legacy of missionary Christianity. On the one hand, dramatic conversions — and a willingness to give all to God — are quite moving and exemplary. On the other hand, missionary tactics which claim Christian superiority to other religions seem  short-sighted.

So, in my fascination with multi-cultural  expressions of Christian spirituality, I offer you today some articles, revealing these two dimensions of this Indian holy man. An article — from the 1930’s — recounts Lam Jeevaratnam’s conversion.

The picture (at the side) shows Lam Jeevaratnam, while he was a young man and performer, before (as the Pentecostals say) he got “saved”.  His conversion account reveals him to be a man of courage, passion, principle, and inspiration.

Here’s the PDF:

PentEvangelIndia30s

As inspiring as is Lam Jeevaratnam’s conversion — a story of total transformation – his exorcisms sometimes sound as if they are disrespectful of gods outside of the Christian God. He exorcises people possessed of demons in India, after he converts totally to Jesus Christ. The demons who possess them are Hindu gods, in his opinion.

(OR: are they demons who pretend to be Hindu gods, causing troubles?). Even if we believe in demons and exorcisms, it is surely rash to denounce as demons gods of other religions.

Here is an excerpt about LJ’s exorcisms:  PentecostalExorcismIndia1934

These articles come courtesy of the USC Pentecostal and Evangelical Research archives. You can also find information about Lam Jeevaratnam at this website:  Biography Lam Jeevaratnam

USC Pentecostal and Evangelical Research Archives