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

Hi All,

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.

 

Healing by Jesus and Reiki #2

 

japanese-madonna

Japanese Madonna

Hello Lightworkers,

According to Mrs. Takata, who helped to disseminate Reiki healing in the United States, the founder of Reiki, Mikaomi Usui, had been a Japanese Christian schoolmaster. He developed Reiki, in the late 19th century, at the prompting of a spiritual meditation upon the healing powers of Jesus. How did Jesus heal?

Mikaomi Usui pondered, also, the healing powers manifest among Buddhists. He prayed and fasted on a mountain in Japan, Kurayama, not far from Kyoto, in order to discover the secrets of spiritual healing.  There, a mystical experience occurred on day 21 of his retreat. He saw a bright light, which remained with him. Once he descended the mountain, his healing abilities were evident. He cured himself of a toe injury and a woman at a diner of a toothache.

Some historians of the movement say that Mrs. Takata, who brought Reiki to the USA after the second world war, in a climate of American prejudice against Japanese, created a legend about Reiki’s founder, so that it would appeal to Christian pieties. In fact, Mikaomi Usui had been scrutinizing Qigong methods, when he discovered Reiki healing modalities.5437109

Whatever the origins of Reiki, some Christians gain acquaintance with spiritual healing — including the healing powers of Jesus –through Reiki. These practices enable people to heal by “laying on of hands,” a technique practiced in the Bible by the early Christians.

Is Reiki a counterfeit version of authentic Christian healing? as some Christian evangelicals claim? See: Healing by Jesus and Reiki #1 Or: are Reiki and Christian healing both benign but only superficially similar? Again, does Reiki and energy healing come close to the kind of healing performed by Jesus himself and by Christians in his name?

12a4On the history of Reiki, see: History of Reiki and On the History of Reiki
For Christians who are beneficially influenced by Reiki or practitioners themselves, see : On Reiki and Christianity and Christian Reiki

Healing by Jesus and Reiki (#1)

Japanese Jesus Lightworkers,

There are Christians who believe that the Japanese healing technique of Reiki  is demonic. This judgment means (so I infer) either: a) demons give people the idea that something harmful (Reiki energy healing) is actually healing;  and/or b) the use of Reiki healing methods invites demons into one’s life. This explanation supposes  the reality of demons, i.e. unclean or evil spirits, which cause confusion, chaos, and morally debased actions.

In the youtube video below, please find the testimony of a former Reiki master, who meets up with a Christian evangelical group in Denmark, led by Torben Sondergaard.  (For a critical article about this leader see: Torben Sondergaard Article).

Apart from the question of the efficacy of Reiki — which I will not evaluate, here — the video raises a serious scruple about the Christian teaching of this Danish evangelical teacher. Before I make this critique, note that this group, called the Last Reformation, may have good things to say.

However, their critique of Reiki, and their larger theology, contain some dubious premises.  The leader of this group argues, in this video, that the Fall of Adam into Sin characterizes our lives unless we accept Jesus Christ as savior and the baptism by the holy spirit. So far his theology sounds like a standard evangelical Christian teaching.

If we listen more closely, however, it emerges that the God against whom we sin in our pre-saved predicament (i.e.  before accepting Jesus) resembles a tyrannical demon himself. This part of Sondergaard’s theology seems to promote a God who condemns us to guilt and fear.

For instance, Sondergaard says that when we come before God at Judgment Day, because God’s holiness is absolute and unparalleled — (infinitely grander and vaster than any human virtue or goodness)– our every sin will sink us. No matter how much good we have done, it will be our sins not our virtues, our evil not our goodness, that will be measured and judged.

According to Christian teaching, however– so it may be urged — God is infinitely good and wise. He or She rewards acts with the greatest mercy. Those who love God and have faith, even as small as a mustard seed, will obtain mercy. Though our sins be scarlet, he will make them as white as snow. Would a good and infinitely wise God really judge sinners in the manner of a tyrant or demonically angry Despot — as Sondergaard’s theology of intimidation suggests?

Is God himself a Vindictive, Suspicious, Angry Deity ? Such a characterization approximates the personality of a demon, according to  Webster’s Dictionary, whereby a demon is: a) an evil spirit angels and demons; b) a source or agent of evil, harm, distress, or ruin. This Pseudo-God (advanced by the Danish evangelist) seeks our harm, evil , distress, or ruin, insofar as anybody who fails to be baptized by the holy spirit and to recite the proper creeds will be condemned because of the slightest sin, no matter his or her goodness and righteous deeds.

Whatever one believes about Reiki in relation to Christian healing, it is surely lamentable that a Reiki master should fall prey to such a distorted preaching of the Christian Gospel. This kind of theology can make one suspicious of practices, like Reiki, which are either benign or innocuous in themselves.

Faith Healing: How to Prove or Disprove?

The_Faith_Healer_(1921)_-_Isis_Theater,_Indianapolis,_Indiana

Hi All,

The evidence for faith healing relies not on statistics and scientific procedures, primarily, but on personal testimonies. Testimonies, which are designed to strengthen one’s own faith while convincing or converting an audience, can be faked and dissimulated.

Semantically, a healing testimony or faith claim enacts an exchange between the giver of the message and its recipient. If the recipient doubts, the faith testimony has failed, in a sense, since it has not achieved its goal of converting the listener. If the giver of the message is lying, then even if the listener believes it, this faith healing is untrustworthy.

Nor does quantity of evidence matter so much as quality, when it comes to healing miracles. A multitude can be tricked and deceived, just as a single person of discernment may be sufficient to vouch for the truth of a miracle or faith claim.

Further, proof of spiritual matters — such as healing or prayer – can be quite elusive. One believes in the causality of the Spirit, through prayer or healing, once one receives its benefits. Yet, the mind and ordinary reasoning kick in very soon afterwards. Doubts crowd in and ordinary explanations assert themselves, thus undercutting the validity and credibility of one’s faith or healing testimony.

How then do we decide faith healing claims?  It may be that the mode for gaining trust in a faith claim is not unlike our ways for ascertaining a trustworthy character or a reliable experience of love.

The heart can be deceived, yet after some time, and some testing, by our intuition we do know, if we are honest with ourselves.  We recognize the one we love, the one who loves us. We can ascertain who is trustworthy. Likewise, we know when faith plays a role in healing; it will be obvious to the heart that is open and discerning.

Some have made use of new scientific paradigms in order to test phenomena like distance healing and the use of thoughts or intentions to provide beneficial outcomes. See, for instance, the interview (below) with Lynne McTaggert, author of The Intention Experiment.

Here are some resources, for your own exploration.

1. Here’s a discussion of the science of healing, prayer, and paranormal experiences by the researcher Larry Dossey : a podcast interview and an older article

Dossey Interview podcast

Dossey NY Times 90’s

2.  Here are testimonies of faith claims by Christians:

Christian Scientists: Christian Science Healing Video

#2 Christian Science Healing Video

Evangelical Christians: Testimonies: Christian Assemblies International

3. Fraudulent Faith Healing

Faith Healing Scam Article

James Randi : Skeptic

4. Interview with Lynne McTaggert about distance healing and such phenomena:

 

 

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 an article about Benny Hinn, which is somewhat skeptical: Benny Hinn article

2. 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.

4. 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</

5. Here's Kathryn Kuhlman on Miracles:

Excellent article on Kuhlman: Kuhlman Article