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Concrete and Spiritual: LXX Isaiah Devotional Vol 2.1
By Christina M Wilson. Republished from https://justonesmallvoice.com/concrete-and-spiritual-lxx-isaiah-journal-vol-2-1/.
God Calls His People a City
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith God. 2 Speak, ye priests, to the heart of Jerusalem; comfort her, for her humiliation is accomplished, her sin is put away: for she has received of the Lord’s hand double the amount of her sins. (Isaiah 40:1-2 LXE)
In Isaiah 40:1-2, God commands the priests to speak the comfort of reconciliation to his people, Jerusalem. In verse one, he refers to his people as, “my people.” In verse two, he refers to this same group as “Jerusalem.” God commands the priests to speak to “the heart of Jerusalem.” He says to them that Jerusalem’s humiliation is over. “Her sin is put away, for she has received of the Lord’s hand double the amount of her sins.” Would any honest person argue that by “Jerusalem” God means the pile of rubble that the Babylonians left behind? (Do rocks and stones and wooden pillars “sin”?) In these verses, God equates in a figure of speech the city “Jerusalem” with “my people.” In verse 2, God refers to Jerusalem as a female, singular. God calls his people by a singular, female appellation. The point is that if “Jerusalem” means the people of Jerusalem here, then it may also mean so later in the book of Isaiah.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
How readers interpret Scripture is called “hermeneutics.” Hermeneutics is the study of the underlying assumptions and interpretive principles different readers bring to a text. Isaiah is an example of poetic prophecy. Characteristic of Isaiah and other books of prophecy (see Zechariah, for example), the writer uses imagery whose referents are not always clear. In other words, when readers, especially readers today, read certain prophetic passages, they often come away not knowing who or what or when specifically the passage is about. It is common for readers and biblical commentators to fill the gaps with their own presuppositions, their own hermeneutical preferences.
Scripture informs us that not knowing the specific referent was sometimes the case even for the Old Testament prophets themselves. Peter writes:
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1Peter 1:10-12 ESV)
God himself was the original source, the origin, of the words the prophets spoke.
20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2Peter 1:20-21 ESV)
The entire passage, 2 Peter 1:16-21, is good and relevant to Isaiah 40:1-5. Peter’s point is that Jesus Christ is the main point of the prophetic witness. He tells how the booming voice from heaven revealed to himself and others on the Mount of Transfiguration that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The “Holy Spirit sent from heaven,” further verifies to all believers Christ’s identity as Messiah, Son of God. This knowledge from the future is highly relevant to this portion of Isaiah.
What Do Readers Know About God’s People?
Both Testaments speak of God’s having chosen a “people.” In the Old Testament, God’s people are the community whose native or adopted land is Israel. God chose to “reside” in the temple constructed in Jerusalem, the religious and governmental capital of the land of Israel. But even in the Old Testament, after the dispersion to Babylon and elsewhere, people who identified with Israel and its religion considered themselves the people of God.
In the New Testament, God’s people are those who believe in and display loyalty to Christ, their King. Jesus Christ of Nazareth was Jewish. His first followers were Israelites, the people of Israel. But New Testament authors, especially Paul, expanded the Old Testament concept of “God’s people” to include all peoples everywhere who follow Christ. God’s people includes Jewish folk and Gentile folk alike. Paul teaches that Abraham’s children are those who believe in Christ (Galatians 3:22-29). He teaches that non-Jewish believers in Christ have been “grafted in” to the native “olive tree” of Israel (Romans 11:17-24). Now, by faith in Christ, God’s people are Israelites (Jewish people) and Gentiles (non-Jewish people) together as one (Ephesians 2:11-22).
Concrete or Spiritual?
The New Testament identity of Jerusalem is a touchy subject. For example, will Old Testament prophecies concerning Jerusalem be fulfilled literally, that is, with physical concreteness concerning bricks and mortar? Or, will these prophecies find fulfillment in a spiritual way that includes all believers, rather than ethnic Israel exclusively?
The framing of the question is important. Those who frame the question as though inclusion of Gentile believers in Christ excludes “ethnic” and “national” Israel are misinterpreting Scripture and their rhetorical opponents. Both Testaments are very clear that God discriminates against no one, no one, according to ethnicity or national citizenship. The following is a quotation from a study Bible.
“Interpretive challenges…on whether Isaiah’s prophecies will receive literal fulfillment or not, and on whether the Lord, in His program, has abandoned national Israel and permanently replaced the nation with the church…”
“… He [God] would not reject the people whom He has created and chosen…”
“…To contend that those yet unfulfilled [prophecies of Isaiah] will see non-literal fulfillment is biblically groundless… disqualifies the case for proposing that the church receives some of the promises made originally to Israel. The kingdom promised to David belongs to Israel, not the church.”
The quotations above are taken from “The MacArthur Study Bible,” by John MacArthur, Author and General Editor, published at Nashville, et al., by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Copyright 2006, page 935.
I think it’s important to let God interpret his own Scripture. As a Christian, I do allow the New Testament to expand, clarify, and enlighten the Old. God is so much larger than all of us combined. Our understanding of his ways is meager, and paltry, and minimal at best. I do not believe it is necessary to set up an either/or hermeneutic as the above writer and many others have done. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD,” (Isaiah 55:8 ESV).
I believe that God is infinite. Our logic and best efforts to restate God in our own words falls infinitely short of his power and grace. I believe that God will honor his promises to the fathers of Old Testament Israel and he will honor his promises to New Testament saints at one and the same time. These are not mutually exclusive. God can be faithful to the Old Testament fathers and faithful to his Gentile believers now. The two are no longer distinguishable.
One thing I do know, a particular Study Bible does not have the final word on either God or his outcomes. Saying, This is what God means and what he must be bound to, does not make it so. That is human interpretation. I will not be robbed of portions of God’s biblical promises to David because a certain interpreter says, that as a Gentile believer, I have no stake in these promises. Nor would I rob anyone else. This is for God to settle, not we his people.
However, as far as this blog is concerned, I pray that I will always take the high road of placing Christ, not physical Jerusalem, at the center. I pray that I will place Christ, not ethnic Israel, at the center of my interpretation of Isaiah’s prophecy.
Application to Isaiah?
What do the biblical books of Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians have to do with the book of Isaiah? Simply this. When I, as a 21st century non-Jewish Christian, read God’s words, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,” can I apply these words to myself? I believe that the New Testament teaches that yes, I can. God is also speaking to me. And, the Holy Spirit within me says, yes, I am God’s child, every bit as much as his Old Testament people. For I, as a believer in Christ, am one of “God’s people.” This is basic Christianity.
To say that the New Testament church is co-partaker with God’s Old Testament people, Israel, by no means implies an either/or situation. All the promises in Christ are yes (2 Corinthians 1:19-22). Because God through Christ grafted Gentiles into Israel’s native olive tree does not by any means imply that Israel will no longer receive God’s promises. However, I believe that those who wish to make an application of any of God’s promises to Israel only, excluding the church, are misreading Scripture and making assumptions that God never intended.
What does it mean when Scripture says, he who is our peace “made us both one” (Ephesians 2:11-22)? The context of these words is ethnic Jewish believers and ethnic Gentile believers. Doesn’t the plain sense of the words indicate that literally, concretely, both of these groups in their entirety are one in Christ? Paul makes no disclaimers. He does not say, “I am speaking spiritually here. I do not mean that “literally” they are one. Of course literally they are still separated. Only in the Spirit are they one.” Paul did not write that.
That is not what the biblical text states. Christ does not say yes yes and no no (2 Corinthians 1:17-19). Scripture does not say to the church, yes to the “spiritual” and no to the “concrete”. Using plain words, Isaiah did not distinguish–this is “literal,” and this is “spiritual.” Those who see such distinctions are reading their own desires into Scripture. For we are all one in Christ. In plain English, one means one.
Paul follows Isaiah. He clearly states, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise,” (Galatians 3:29 ESV). Paul does not qualify his statement by explaining that he means, “heirs of the spiritual blessing that accompanied the Abrahamic Covenant.” (1) Paul states, “heirs according to promise,” not, Heirs of spiritual [only] blessing. I repeat, God is big enough to fulfill all the biblical promises he has ever made at every level, spiritual and concrete, without excluding anyone. It is a shortage of insight and love that causes some to set these prophecies up as an either/or situation.
The Very Next Verses Introduce the Church
Volume 2 of Isaiah opens with Isaiah 40:1-2 announcing comfort to God’s people and the perfect, complete putting away of Jerusalem’s sin [i.e., the people of Jerusalem’s sin]. Why does the Lord introduce the church in the very next verse? Someone might say, “But where is the church?” Verses 3-5 announce the Incarnation of the Lord God, and “all flesh shall see the salvation of God,” (verse 5).
This would be a very odd juxtaposition if verses 1 and 2 apply only to the ethnic people of God and a physically destroyed Jerusalem, both in the prophet’s own day. The introduction of Messiah at this point signals a much grander plan, a fuller pardon, and a far wider scope than a purely local fulfillment to be accomplished by the return of the exiles to their native land.
Nor does Isaiah specify when or by what means God’s pardon occurs. He does not state the specifics of when or how Jerusalem’s having received “double” for her sins has transpired. I believe God placed the next three verses to indicate that Messiah is for all ages and all people. “All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Christ’s atonement works for all peoples of all times. His atonement worked backward to the prior centuries of Israel’s guilt and forward to our time. Why else would Scripture place this prophetically clear announcement of Christ’s birth just here? (See Matthew 3:3, 11:10; Mark 1:2,3; Luke 1:76, 3:4, 7:27; John 1:23; and Malachi 3:1.)
This post is long, I realize. Nevertheless, the first five verses of Isaiah chapter 40 are a unit. They should be read together. They deal with the same topic: God’s pardon and plan of salvation for his own people and for all humanity, at one and the same time. What is amazing is that Scripture can pack so much into so few words. Truly, God is to be praised.
Because I have dealt so fully with my biblical preferences and biases (presuppositions) here, perhaps I will not need to do so as we progress through Isaiah, Lord willing.
1 MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, page 1763.
Hey! What’s Your Problem?
Reader Challenge: As you read through this portion of Scripture, John chapters 7 and 8 (see link just below), try to answer the question found in the title of this blog–What is the problem that the enemies of Jesus have that prevents them from seeing Christ for who he actually is?
Week 8 Part 2 John 7:1-8:59 Focus–Jesus Confronts His Enemies
(Link to Outline of John)
John’s Theme: John 20:31 … these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Summary of Chapter 7 (based upon Hendriksen, Vol. 2, 30-31)
The Galilean Ministry has ended. Jesus has retired to the northern regions of the country. After six months, he returns again to Judea for the Later Judean Ministry and the feast of Tabernacles.
1. John 7:1-13 His blood brothers, not yet believers, (see Acts 1:14 for their later belief) attempt sarcastically to entice him to go to the feast with them. Jesus refuses, but later goes up “not publicly, but in secret” (vs 10). In the meantime, at the feast, the “Jews” are murmuring about where “that man” might be, while the crowds call him a “good man” They are all afraid to say anything openly, for fear of the religerati©.
2. John 7:14 Halfway through the feast, Jesus goes up to the temple and begins to teach. He causes a stir.
ESV John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”
3. John 7:15-52 The people react.
a. The “Jews” are generally skeptical and oppositional (15, 20, 35-36).
b. The crowd is divided–some derisive and some more or less open (vss 12, 20, 25-27, 31, 40-44).
c. The Pharisees sent guards to arrest him (32, 45-52).
d. The guards sent to arrest him are dumfounded with awe-filled amazement at the manner in which Jesus spoke while teaching (32, 45-46).
e. Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees who had personally gone to inquire of Jesus (John 3:1-12), speaks up in defense of the law, a fairly safe and noncommittal way to defend Jesus himself (50, 51).
Summary of Chapter 8 (based on Hendriksen, Vol. 2, 68-69)
1. John 7:53-8:11 Discussion among experts is inconclusively split concerning whether or not this section should be included in Scripture.
This is the highly popular and famous scene in which Jesus loves unto salvation a woman caught “in the act of adultery.” The great contrast is between the non-judgmental (yet highly aware) love of Jesus versus the callous condemnation and deceitfulness of the “teachers of the laws and the Pharisees.”
2. John 8:12-59 The confrontation between Jesus and the religerati© continues (see Hendriksen, Vol. 2, 68-69).
Scene: the temple courts the following day (1-2)
Jesus: [Theme 1–the light] “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (12) [JESUS’ SECOND GREAT “I AM” IN JOHN] (Light of the World: 1:4,5,7,8-9; 3:19, 20, 21; 8:12; 9:5; 11:9, 10; 12:35, 36; 12:46)
Pharisees: “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.” (13)
Jesus: [Theme 2–Sent by God] The [my] Father sent me (7:28; 8:14b, 15, 16, 17, 18, 26, 49-50; 5:31, 5:38)
Pharisees: They don’t get it–they remain literalistic and concrete; their scope is narrowly focused on the physical, carnal world only.
• “Where is your father?” (8:19) [slanderous insinuation]
• “You, who are you?” (8:25) [scornful disdain]
• “They did not recognize that he spoke to them of the Father.” (8:27) [ignorance born of prejudice]
The Crowd of Religious People: “While he was saying these things, many believed in him.” (8:30) [mental agreement only, quickly changing to disdain–8:31, 33, 39, 41, 44, 48, 52, 53, 57, 59] [see also The Parable of the Sower, especially vss 5-6 and 20-21]
Jesus: [Theme 3–The Son of Man to be lifted up] “When you will have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he.” (3:14-16; 8:28; 12:32-33) [Also, Theme 6–I AM]
Jesus: [Theme 4–Truth] “If you remain [abide] in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (8:31-32; 1:9, 14, 17; 3:21, 33; 4:18, 23, 24, 37; 5:31, 32, 33, 45; 6:32; 7:18, 28; 8:13, 14, 16, 17, 26, 32, 40, 44, 45, 46)
The [Supposedly] Believing Crowd of Religious People: “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?” (8:33)
Jesus: [Theme 5–My Father, your father] “I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” (8:38) “If you are Abraham’s children, you are doing the works of Abraham. But now you are seeking to kill, me, a man who has been telling you the truth which I heard from God. This Abraham did not do. You are doing the works of your father.” (8:39-40)
The [by now] Non-believing Crowd of Religious People: “Abraham is our father.” (8:39) “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father–even God.” (8:41)
Jesus: [Theme 5–My Father God, your father the devil] “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me (8:42) [Also Theme 2–Sent by God]. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (8:44) “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” (8:47)
The [now] Hostile Crowd of Religious People: “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” (8:53)
Jesus: [Theme 2–Sent by God] “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.” (8:54-55)
Jesus: [Theme 5–My Father, your father] “Your father Abraham [according to the flesh] rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” (8:56)
The Hostile Crowd of Religious People: “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (8:57)
Jesus: [Theme 6–I AM] “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (8:58)
The Hostile Crowd of Religious People: [Theme 7–Jesus’ Enemies want to kill him] So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (8:59; 5:18; 7:1, 19, 20, 25; 8:37, 40)
So how did we do in the Reader Challenge? (see top of post)
Hint: What is the one thing that Jesus had that none of his enemies had? L-O-V-E.
1. See Jesus’ many miracles:
• water to wine demonstrates compassion for a groom, his bride, and the parents (2:1-11)
• healing the nobleman’s son demonstrates love for a social class not his own (4:46-54)
• healing the paralyzed man demonstrates Jesus’ love for the outwardly weak and defeated, the unattractive and unlovely (5:1-9)
• healing the paralyzed man on a Sabbath demonstrates Jesus’ (and God’s) love for people above an overly zealous and ungodly love for human religious tradition
• feeding the 5,000 people demonstrates love for people’s physical needs 6:1-15
2. Jesus’ actions demonstrate love:
• cleansing the temple demonstrates love for God and for God’s house of prayer (2:13-22)
• Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus demonstrates love for potentially hostile people (3:1-21)
• Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well and his long visit in her village demonstrates his love for ethnic and religious classes not his own (Jesus was Jewish by human birth) (4:4-43)
• Jesus’ long discourses with his enemies in chapters 6, 7, and 8 demonstrate his love for those who hate them
• These same discourses demonstrate Jesus’ love for God in his willingness that none should go without hearing the gospel of salvation, even those whom he knows will use this gospel against him in order to kill him
3. Lack of love prevented Jesus’ enemies for recognizing that Jesus was a good man.
Yet, even without LOVE, two other attributes would have worked to help these blind enemies of Christ: KNOWLEDGE and OBEDIENCE
John 7:17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.
obedience–if anyone’s will is to do God’s will
knowledge–he will know
Obedience–John 7:19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?”
John 7:23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?
Knowledge–John 7:27 But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” 28 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from? But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”
Obedience and Knowledge–John 7:49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” [The chief priests and Pharisees do not obey the law that they claim to know.]
Knowledge and Obedience–John 8:4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” … John 8:7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. [In their claimed knowledge of the Law, the Pharisees test Jesus to see if he will deny the love for common folk, which he often displays, or deny his obedience to the Law of Moses. Jesus’ outwits them by causing them to recognize their own guilt of disobedience.
Knowledge and Obedience–John 8:49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. [The religious leaders did not know God, nor did they obey him. They dishonored God by dishonoring his Sent One–Christ.]
Summary: If they had known God and wanted to obey him, they would have investigated Jesus’ claim of being God’s Son with an open mind and an open heart, given that God backed up Jesus’ claims with astounding miracles, and that Jesus taught with astounding teaching. If these Pharisees had sought to honor God (to know, obey, and love him), they would have fairly investigated Jesus’ claims, as Nicodemus, who was one of them, apparently did. Seeking to do God’s will (obedience), they would have discovered (knowledge) that Jesus truly was who he claimed to be. Knowledge of God and his Son leads to love for both. So, in love, they would have honored God by honoring the Son. They did none of these, thereby showing that they had neither knowledge of God, nor a heart of obedience towards him, nor did they have the love of God in their hearts. Jesus told them flat out that they had none of these because they were not “of God” but of their father, the devil (8:44).
Spiritual Versus Concrete Continues in John 6
Week 7 Part 4 John 6:22-71: Focus–Concrete (Concrete Literal) vs Spiritual (Spiritual Reality)
(Link to Outline of John)
John’s Theme: John 20:31 … these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
In chapter 6 John continues the steady development of his presentation of the great salvation theme of his letter, and he continues to contrast the concrete-only understanding of the religious pundits of his day with the spiritual realities of eternal life.
I. John 3: Nicodemus and the necessity of being born again of the Spirit
John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
II. John 4: The Woman at the Well and Christ the giver of living water that springs up in believers to a fountain of eternal life
John 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
John 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
III. John 6: Christ the bread of life and the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood
John 6:31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who 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 shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
John 6:41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?“
John 6:48 I am the bread of life.
John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he 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, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.
- To Nicodemus Jesus said, You must be born again. Nicodemus responded concretely–asking whether he needed to crawl back into his mother’s womb as an old man.
- To the Woman at the Well Jesus said, I will give you Living Water. The woman initially responded concretely by asking for the water so as not to have to go to the well to fill her bucket every day.
- To all the listeners in John 6 (the religious pundits, his larger circle of disciples, and his own group of 12 disciples) Jesus reveals that he himself is the living water, and that those who want the fountain of water springing up to eternal life must eat his flesh and drink his blood. He was not speaking of cannibalism, but of the spiritual necessity of fully embracing himself in deepest communion–also known as believing in him. Many who heard him interpreted his words as though he were speaking of cannibalism, and they were repulsed.
This one verse sums up Jesus’ teaching well–
John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
- Can you find other verses in which a teaching of Jesus is interpreted concretely rather than as the spiritual truth he intends?
- Given the strength and clarity of Jesus’ teaching concerning Spirit and flesh (see John 6:63 above), why do you suppose there are some today whose minds still focus on concrete fulfillment of spiritual words rather than on the spiritual realities to which the concrete symbols point?