The Lightworker’s Temptation: Who are my Sisters and Brothers? (The Gospel of John, chapter 7)

Note: I will be resuming our Bible Study of the Gospel of John. Here’s post #39. (You may read all the back-posts on file for the Bible study to catch up, if you like). We will move on to the next chapters of John, soon.

Gospel of John #39: Text John 7: 1-9 is reproduced below

This passage in the Gospel of John, which emphasizes Jesus’s miracles or signs, shows that Jesus is a lightworker. Possessing the capacity for miracle and prophecy, he guards this capacity carefully. Just as lightworkers, in our own times, must be careful as to their purposes in making use of supernatural gifts, so Jesus here must be careful not to misuse his gifts. His own brothers tempt him to make use of his divinely bestowed powers, wrongly, for the sake of publicity and political gain.

Temptation

In this passage, the brothers of Jesus entice him to go to Jerusalem to “show yourself to the world” (7:4). Since the Jews wish to kill Jesus in Judea (whose capital is Jerusalem), Jesus’s brothers are positioned in this story as the bad guys, who do not believe in Jesus (v.5); instead, they wish to see him killed. Their suggestion that Jesus show himself to “the world” flies in the face of Jesus’s refusal, in the previous chapter, to become a King with a public following on a worldly stage.

Echoing Satan’s temptation, that Jesus should take command of the world as a ruler over many kingdoms, the brothers show their ignorance of Jesus’s true mission. Jesus’s mission is to work miracles, in generosity and by serving human freedom, on behalf of his friends and disciples. But, his kingdom is not of this world.

The Lightworker’s Choice

Like Jesus, lightworkers face temptations by false friends, who may betray them. Even the church itself may label lightworkers as magicians, witches, or subversive entities. Lightworkers must be discerning so as to ally themselves with friends who may assist them to channel their gifts in life-giving directions.

The brothers of the flesh, who are false friends of Jesus in duplicity, stand in contrast to Jesus’s true friends and family in spirit. When Jesus does finally go up to Judea, he stops in nearby Bethany (John 11), where he finds Lazarus, his “brother” in discipleship, and Mary and Martha, his sisters. These friends of Jesus are his true family, because they believe in Jesus’s divine stature and his capacity to do the works of God, even by raising the dead.

Historical Choice Point: Jesus and the Church

Who are the brothers of Jesus in the Gospel of John? According to Matthew, Jesus’s brothers are as follows: James, Joses, Simon, and Judas (Matt 13:55). It is possible that the term “brothers” means natural brothers or instead kin or cousin. The brothers are included among the believers in Acts 1:14.

James, the brother of Jesus, was the leader of the Jerusalem Church, who was martyred in 62 CE. (For the martyrdom as described by the Jewish historian Josephus, see this article: James Marytrdom Josephus.) The apostle Paul (Gal 1:18-2:10) names James among the pillars of the church in Jerusalem. This James may be the same as the James to whom the Lord appeared after his resurrection (1Cor 15:7).

If it is James who is featured among the brothers in John 7:1-9, then possibly the Gospel of John opposes the Jerusalem Church. (For Robert Eisenstein’s thesis on Jesus’s brother James, see this summary review:  Eisenstein on James brother of Jesus).There are three people named James among Jesus’s early followers, named in the New Testament. (See: Three James in NT).

Lightworkers

Like Jesus, lightworkers may stand in a tense relationship toward organized churches. Nevertheless, their true community may be found among their friends, who are doing works of light and love. This community of friends, like the community in Bethany around Lazarus, will sustain lightworkers to perform works of love and light.

John 7:1-9

7 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. 2 Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; 4 for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 (For not even his brothers believed in him.) 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil. 8 Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee.

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Happy Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day: July 22

Hello All,

Happy Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day, July 22!  Notice from these passages in the Gospels that Mary Magdalene is :

  1. Witness at the Cross
  2. At the tomb
  3. Witness/Apostle to the Resurrection (the first to see the Risen Jesus)
  4. In some traditions, she is exorcised of demons by Jesus – and she may have been among the women who supported Jesus financially

Here are the relevant passages:

MARK 15:40, 47:

After death of Jesus and revelation of Jesus as Son of God, Mary Magdalene comes on the scene as WITNESS

39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died,[c] he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph,[d] and Salome.

See also Matthew 27:56

Then Mary Magdalene sees where Jesus is laid in the tomb:

46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.

See also Matthew 27:61

BURIAL : ANOINTING

Mark 16:1, 9:Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.

FIRST WITNESS TO RESURRECTION

16:9: When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.

See also Matthew 28:1

And Luke 8:2

This verse elaborates on Mary Magdalene’s exorcism: She is accompanying Jesus, perhaps among those women who provide for Jesus financially (8:3)

8:2 “as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out”

Luke 8:1-3 Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them[a] out of their resources.

The Gospel of John elaborates the role of Mary Magdalene:

At the cross:

John 19:25 – “And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”

At the tomb, where she meets the Risen Jesus

John 20:1 “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.”

(John omits burial anointing by Mary but includes tomb scene– see the entire dialogue in John 20)

John 20:11 “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb”

Witness to the Risen Jesus

John 20:18: “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Come Alive !: The Secret and Life Abundant

Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

The Secret, the 2007 mega bestseller by Rhonda Byrne, provokes divided reactions. The basic message of this book — and the accompanying DVD – can be life-affirming. The teaching of The Secret, it may be argued, resonates with the teachings of Jesus in some respects. Both support people to come alive in ways that are natural to our hearts, given our unique talents and desires.

Contrary to the message of the New Testament, however, The Secret can encourage rank materialism, which deviates from moral or generous aims.

Life Abundant

In the New Testament, we are to enjoy life abundant (John 10:10) by making use of our gifts for the benefit of all.  If we follow our goals and dreams, according to The Secret, while envisioning success with faith and right intention, then life will assist their realization. Surely, from a spiritual perspective, our hopes and goals for life — which make us come alive — ought to be respected and nourished. If we come fully alive, then we can assist the world likewise to be alive. The Secret may be a tool toward this end.

Many believe themselves to be prisoners or victims in life. The Secret offers those who feel like victims tools for self efficacy, so that they may chart their own destiny. Similarly, the teachings of the New Testament–for instance, concerning prayer– give us power to decide our fate and our happiness while assisted by an infinite and creative intelligence.

Morally Dubious and Deluded

Some, however, criticize the concept of the law of attraction, which is substantially the message of The Secret, as being simplistic or even deluded. (See, for instance, this critique: Mark Manson The Secret.) The empire behind The Secret, furthermore, has been riven by law suits, arguments, and betrayal, thus seeming to vitiate the message of ethically rigorous and pure-minded positivity, championed by its architects. (On lawsuits, see: Lawsuits and the Secret NYTimes and The Australian Critique Rhonda Byrne.)

Testimonials: Benefits in People’s Lives

Those who are inspired by The Secret, however, attest that its message has helped them to change their lives. Proponents and converts report that they wake up through this book to the reality that they are no longer victims in their lives but instead creators of them. The Secret restores our personal power, as one advocate describes, which is endowed by God.  (See, for instance: How the Secret Changed the Life of Jewel     Manifesting Goals and Spirituality.)

What gives people hope about this message is its affirmative vision of life. What if life is actually amenable, malleable, and responsive to our deepest desires, aspirations, goals and wishes? Whether our desire be for a wonderful love relationship, for financial success, for healing, or for the capacity to carry out a humanitarian project, The Secret affirms that these desires are good and may be realized so long as we remain focused and positive in our approach to realizing them.

Furthermore, if life can be trusted to carry us forward toward self-realization, then we need not struggle by pushing against the current of life. Instead, we may jump into the life stream and let it carry us to our highest good.

Conclusion

The Secret can, indeed, encourage wishful thinking and a superstitious fear of negativity. The emphasis, in the movement around it, on material goals may lead to ethically dubious results.

Yet, in a different way, the message of this book confirms the gospel promise of life abundant. The gospel message says that life is generous and abundant. Our individual goals and dreams may be realized through right intention and faith. After all, God cares for each of us. We are guided, easily and joyously, toward the glory of our own flowering and fulfillment — like the lilies of the field which neither toil nor spin.

 

 

Rebirth into Joy, Dying to Perfectionism

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Gospel of John #38 : John 6: 52b-53; “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.John 6: 60-64 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.”

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Who can accept that Jesus (infused with the Spirit of God) should die and his flesh and blood be ingested by the disciples? Or that we, in imitation of Jesus, must “die” to the flesh, ourselves, in order to be reborn in the Spirit? How may we understand this death and rebirth, a doctrine that lies at the center of Christian spirituality?

I will discuss this death/rebirth dynamic, first, as it pertains to our spiritual lives and secondly, as it pertains to the life of Jesus, who models the way to God.

Death and Rebirth in our Spiritual Lives

Our own death to the self can be experienced as a rebirth into joy and wellbeing, particularly if the self that needs to die is constructed of painful tendencies and destructive personality dynamics.

Many are consumed by self-criticism, for instance, which leads to depression. We seek that “perfect” life and a fully meritorious way of being in the world. The vulnerability of Life seems like a rude error.  Denying the prospect of suffering, failure, injustice, or struggle, we desperately try to create a facade of perfection, which becomes a counterfeit self, a false identity. (See this article: Perfectionism and Depression)

The false self– which is enslaved to counterfeit values (such as criticism and perfectionism)– can lead to death. Where there’s excessive criticism, which is neither constructive nor conducive to growth, how can we love?  Once we are impeded in love, we lose joy and well-being –which, in turn, can make us sick and die in the soul. The soul’s death leads to disease in the body.

If we are courageous enough to allow the false self to die– and its perfectionism and criticism to be demolished– we may enter more fully into the life of God (who is Life and Love). The death of the false self may hurt; one may even mourn this imposter once he or she is gone. New Life takes the place of death, however, a LIFE that is without boundaries. We then honor LIFE itself in whatever guise that Life takes and in whatever form that Life shows up. In short, the death of the false self liberates our lives so that we may be taken up in Spirit–in a kind of ascension of our own–to experience life in God.

The Death of Jesus

As this passage in John indicates, to accept the difficult teaching (that Jesus must die and be consumed) is to honor the Son of Man, while the one who does not believe (namely, Judas) betrays him.

Difficult teaching: Jesus Christ claims that one must ingest his very body as bread and drink his blood, in order to discover the life of God within oneself. This suggestion of cannibalism (see previous post in this series #37) is offensive to his audience.  Death is implied as a preliminary to this feast.

If Jesus is merely a human being, then he commits blasphemy (as his accusers suppose) for his claim of being not just a prophet (like Moses whose people received bread in the desert) but instead of the same substance as the Father God, i.e. “the heavenly bread”. Jesus claims union with God which would be offensive for a mere mortal (according to his accusers).

If Jesus is in fact divine, then it is difficult to understand how the divine (who is Spirit) must die like a human being in order for his flesh to be consumed. What a bizarre notion! That one should feed on the body of God and drink his blood. Gods do not normally have bodies.

Death of God as a Model for our own Spiritual Death and Rebirth

Consider, though, what we gain when we ingest the body and blood of Christ. The false self having fallen away, we feed upon an expanded awareness of divine Life as a spiritual reality, beyond the boundaries of the flesh or the ego (the false self).

As Rumi the poet says, the thing that seems most bizarre and difficult may be a guide from beyond to be welcomed, the Messenger who brings a gift to the guest house. In the guesthouse, which is our hearts, we relish the joy of Life however Life shows up. Such is Life in the Spirit: abundant and omnipresent.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,

 

 

Cannibalism – Jesus movement

Gospel of John #37  : Text of passage (6:60-71) is reproduced below

After Jesus claims in John 6 that his own body (flesh) and his blood must be ingested, in order for people to gain eternal life, many are aghast at this claim.  John’s Gospel likely reflects the charges, against early Christians, of human sacrifice, combined with cannibalism.

(Reproduced below is an excerpt from an article about this stereotyped accusation, which was directed against Christians in the early period. The counter-accusation, in turn, alleged the same vulgarity of pagans in their religious rituals. You will find, too, a link to the entire article by J. Rives, a Roman historian. See also the link to a contemporary article about religious rituals and cannibalism).

The Gospel counters this charge by the suggestion that the life of God is Spirit not flesh (v.63). Thus, cannibalism does not pertain to God. Because Jesus embodies God, he will not die but instead ascend (v. 62). Furthermore, those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, based on his works (e.g. miracles) and teachings, will ascertain the truth of his words, which are filled with spirit and life (v.63).

Only a few can understand this strange claim about Jesus’s stature and mission, which (to outsiders) entails cannibalism. Those who do understand that Jesus’s life is divine, and his mission bestowed directly by God, continue to follow him. For, as Peter recognizes, “You have the words of eternal life” (v.68b).

The idea that a man’s own body must be eaten — as flesh and blood — does sound bizarre and repulsive. It is only if we accept the theological claim of the Gospel of John that the idea may become palatable. For by “eating”  the bread of heaven, and drinking the blood of God, we do not eat human flesh like cannibals. Instead, we partake directly in God’s Spirit, which offers freedom, eternal life, and Love.

Question: If you were among the original audience for this speech, what would your reaction have been? 

Early Christians accused of human sacrifice and cannibalism

HUMAN SACRIFICE AMONG PAGANS AND CHRISTIANS By J. RIVES

(excerpt, introduction for complete article see: Human Sacrifice Pagans and Early Christians through JSTOR — copy may be downloaded for free through public library databases) 

In Minucius Felix’ dialogue on the value of Christianity, written in the late second or early third century C.E.,1 the character Caecilius, who presents the anti-Christian arguments, recounts a story about their initiations, ‘a story as loathsome as it is well known’: after the initiate has struck a baby concealed under a covering of flour, those present drink the blood from its wounds and so seal their union (Oct. 9.5). Later in the dialogue, Octavius, the defender of Christianity, refutes this slander. The alleged crime, he argues, is so terrible that ‘no one could believe it except the sort of person who would attempt it’. He goes on to point out that pagans, not Christians, are the ones who practise actual human sacrifice. He supports his claim by citing specific examples: the Africans who used to sacrifice their children to Saturn, the Taurians and the Egyptian Busiris who sacrificed foreigners, the Gauls, and lastly the Romans themselves, who in the past would bury alive two Greeks and two Gauls and who in his own day sacrifice men to Jupiter Latiaris (Oct. 30. I) .

Although Caecilius describes the story he tells about the Christians as a notafabula, it is somewhat difficult to determine exactly how widely known it was. Virtually every Christian apologist between i so and 200 C.E. refers to the charge, but the evidence from the pagan side is much less extensive.2 After investigating the activities of Christians in Bithynia, the younger Pliny notes in his report to Trajan that they gather together ‘to take food, food that is ordinary enough and harmless’ (Ep. X.96.7). The appended qualification suggests that in the i iOS Pliny had already heard some version of these stories, and took them seriously enough to make inquiries.3 Some years later, Fronto had heard enough about the charges to elaborate on them in a speech.4 Later still, the citizens of Lugdunum who instituted a persecution of local Christians in I77 C.E. were apparently convinced of their truth, since they tried thro torture to make one woman confess to such deeds (Eus., HE v. I.26). although the evidence is scanty, there is enough to suggest that at least some pagans both knew and believed these stories.

See Link: Cargo Cults Accused of Cannibalism

John 6: 60- 71

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.

 

Bread of Heaven

This post belongs to our study of the Gospel of John. Please see the side menu to review the previous posts. The text of John 6: 16-59 is reproduced below.

Gospel of John study #36

In the last post, we looked at John 6: 1-15. Jesus feeds a crowd by his bread miracle.  On this basis, the crowds wish to make him King. They see him as the expected “prophet like Moses,” a figure in Judaism of the time who was regarded as God’s appointed servant, worthy to rule.  Jesus refuses the role, just as he refuses the devil’s temptation of turning stones into bread. The devil understands that the one who possesses storehouses of food, in times of famine, can rule over and subjugate hungry hordes.

Yes, Jesus will multiply bread to feed people, in generosity and service, and to demonstrate the unlimited creative power of God.  Yet, Jesus will not make use of his miraculous abilities, in deference to Satan, as a way to deprive people of their freedom by controlling their food supplies. As this next passage shows, Jesus offers the people the true “bread of heaven,” instead of perishable bread: the Life of God, which we may ingest as an eternally renewable source of eternal life, love and freedom.

We will return to consider this claim, again, in our next post. For now, I will break down this passage, analytically, in the hope of clarifying its meaning.

In this passage (6:16-59), Jesus demonstrates his God-bestowed miraculous abilities by walking in water (vv. 16-21). While his bread miracle recalls God’s provision of manna to the wilderness generation under Moses, so his walking on the sea recalls God’s parting of the seas, during the Exodus, so that Israel may cross out of Egypt, the place of bondage. Jesus demonstrates that he is not merely a new “prophet like Moses” but indeed one who can perform works directly sourced from God.

Jesus then gives a speech, explaining that the true gift he has to give is not merely food to eat (to sustain biological life) but instead eternal life. Furthermore, while the people under Moses ate manna in the desert (which is perishable) as a gift from God, the people now, in the presence of Jesus, may eat the bread of life itself, which has come down to heaven from God. It is Jesus himself who is this heavenly bread. It is his body that must be eaten.

This puzzling assertion, suggesting cannibalism, causes consternation and anger in some of Jesus’s audience. How can Jesus claim to be the bread of life, when he is a mere mortal, the son of their very own neighbors in their village?

41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 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 explains:

56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 

We learn later in the Gospel (John 15) that to “abide” in Jesus means to abide in Love. Thus, by offering his own flesh, as heavenly bread, and his own blood, as heavenly drink,  Jesus asks us to supply ourselves with a new spiritual foundation for our lives. Our lives, in communion with God, will be the life of God, which is Love.

The mission of Jesus Christ is to offer us this communion and union with God, which in turn gives freedom, and even an ability to perform miracles of our own.

John 6:16-59

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 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. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35 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. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38 for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39 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. 40 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.”

41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 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’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44 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. 45 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. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

 

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).

Satan’s Temptation

The Grand Inquisitor, in Dostoyevsky’s parable, asks Jesus to justify his claims to freedom and his refusal of Satan’s offer. In the famous temptation scenes in the Gospels, Satan offers Jesus the chance to prove his abilities by 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 by bread is the basis for both political and religious authority. Human beings require to have their stomachs filled. 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.

What is Freedom?

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 resolution will be explained below).

Jesus Refuses the Role of King

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 himself 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 John 6, 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.”

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.

Ivan’s Challenge

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 into 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, Ivan 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 urges: “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?

Christ’s Solution: The Kiss

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. In the earlier scene the monk Zosima bows to their brother Demitri. Similarly, Jesus responds with a kiss.

The kiss reverses the kiss of Judas from the Gospels. Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, kisses Jesus to reveal his identity to the arresting party. Judas trades Jesus away for money. Judas 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. Mary, by contrast, lavishes love upon Jesus by making free use of perfume to anoint Jesus’s feet in honor of his role as savior.

Christ’s kiss in Dostoyevsky’s story does the opposite of Judas’s betrayal. Like Mary’s anointing of Jesus’s feet in the Gospel, so Christ’s 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.

Freedom: The Kiss Reconciles Heaven and Earth

The kiss reconciles heaven and earth. On earth, we need food and bread. In heaven, our freedom is assured. The two realms, heaven and earth, can be discrepant. Love — the kiss — reconciles them. Through love, we know our own worthiness. On the basis of this love, we may create a social order which generously provides, for all, sufficient material resources: bread not stone, the bread of life (love), not the stone of greed and materialism.

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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.