“It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
Martin Luther, during the Marburg Coloquy, famously wrote on the table in front of him “hoc est corpus meum.” Translated into English, Martin Luther wrote, “This is my body.”
Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers were present at this discussion but the main characters and protagonists were Zwingli and Luther. While Luther and Zwingly had their differences when it came to Biblical interpretation, they were most divided over what many call the eucharist– but I prefer, as I grow up, to call it what Paul called it, the Lord’s supper.
Ironically enough, after reading today’s text over and over and exploring all other examples, I disagree with both Luther and Zwingli’s opposing opinions. Don’t be fooled or fall for the false narrative, there are usually more than two sides to every story.
However, their dubious dogmas aside, the main contention was whether or not the actual body and blood of Jesus are present in the eucharist. Both asserted dubious dogma into their reasonings as to why they took their particular positions. Martin Luther, missing the metaphorical meaning of today’s text, took the literal approach, hence writing on the table, “this is my body.” Zwingli took another literal extreme, saying that Jesus is wholly in heaven and his complete body is seated at the righthand of the father and therefore couldn’t be present in the eucharist. An argument ensued and Zwingli and Luther never came to an agreement.
I’ve used several illustrations like this before, both on this platform and when teaching teenagers and even adults. Look at the picture– they are neither my blood brothers nor are we in a certain communist country in the Caribbean. In fact, I have never felt further away from them as I do right now, writing in the bitter cold and unable to connect with them as my smartphone with their contact information has left me for smartphone heaven (misconstrued, metaphorical meaning). I saw the signs of a dying smartphone but procrastinated on the backing up of my contact info. Yes, I can dig a little deeper and collect their contact information and will– but for now I choose to use this and them as an illustration.
You saw the picture and you saw me and my friends, in C__a, but I am not present at this time in C–a with them. You didn’t “literally” see us but saw our image. Nevertheless you wouldn’t argue that we weren’t there. You also wouldn’t argue against that being us. But what about me calling them my brothers? In the New Testament, christians are refered to as brothers more than any other word. Therefore while I am not with them, in a certain communist country in the Caribbean, while I am not hot but cold, while we all have different mothers, that picture is me and my brothers, sweating in C__a, after 6 days of hard labor.
Why then don’t we see the symbolism in the Bible in the same way? Why was the meeting between Zwingli and Luther quite contentious? Ironically enough, in the picture of me and my brothers, 3 different eschatologies are represented. 2 are dispensational, 1 historical premillenial and 1 holds to a partial preterism, postmillennialist approach, sort of– myself being the latter. Perhaps Zwingli and Luther should have built a church building together before they discussed the eucharist.
This missive is not about the eucharist but the eating of the bread– the body of Jesus. Maybe it is about the eucharist. Obviously there is a connection or I wouldn’t have told the story of the Marburg Colloquy. We want to set aside preconceived notions and presuppositions as we engage Scripture, not adhering to dubious dogmas made up in the minds of men but see the metaphorical meanings manifested by the metaphorical Master in the masterpiece that is the Bible. This is not a preconceived notion because the Bible promised that the Messiah would “speak in parables.” While there are no parables proper in John’s gospel account, John’s composition is full of metaphors and actually begins with one. John calls Jesus “the Word” and not words, it’s an obvious allusion to God, Scripture and truth. Jesus is not the word “Word” found in a literal bowl of alphabet soup. We have to consider the context and aspirations of the author by seeing litarary language in the literature and jive with the genre, explore other examples using exegesis and then divide rightly the word of truth. We call this the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics.
In today’s text Jesus is giving a divine discourse to the people present, of whom he fed from five loaves and two small fish. At this point in the divine discourse, Jesus quotes Isaiah and the Word tells the multitude that Isaiah promised their fathers that they would be taught by God. Here we see this being literally fulfilled.
“It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.”
Ironically enough, the Word not only explains to the people that he is teaching them according to Isaiah’s prophecy but that he was also the one who taught their fathers, including Isaiah. Jesus, once again and as John has consistently highlighted, claims that only he has seen the father. Jesus is YHWH, the I Am, Ego Eimi and in today’s text he zooms in on himself being the bread of life.
He does this not only with his words in the divine discourse but by pointing back to Isaiah. He is also pointing the people present back to Exodus. Yet the divine discourse goes back even further, all the way to Genesis and comes forward to a couple of days before the divine discourse, the day in which Jesus fed them. This is why I always write, “see the sublime string.” This is the heart of the CAGED method. Unlike Zwingli, Luther and our prophecy pundits, we want to see how everything fits into the narrative of Jesus and not our own perceptions. I realize the difficulty– if Zwingli and Luther couldn’t agree and if our prophecy pundits are worthless– worse actually, what chance do we have?
Modern technology, the work of Zwingli and Luther, the ever-so enriched, erroneous exlamations of the prophecy pundits all help us. For instance, Sid Roth proclaimed a prophecy of president Trump winning reelection in a landslide. Seven days in to the Biden administration and it’s far past the time to forget everything Sid Roth ever said. Sure, even a stopped clock is right twice a day but it still can’t be trusted. We need to learn from history and not repeat it like the people present who wanted to rapture Jesus and make him their king, who now want to disavow him because he claimed to come down from heaven. They knew his parents but didn’t know that the Messiah would come from both heaven and a woman. They missed that part of prophecy much like our modern day prophecy pundits miss the metaphorical meanings and the context of Isaiah.
They are overly obsessed with the nation of Israel and land in the middle east. Look again at today’s text. If the people of Israel ate the bread in the wilderness and died, as Jesus said, and if Jesus is the bread that leads to eternal life, how much more valuable is that inheritance? Ironically enough it is not the prophecy pundits who proclaim the land in a long view but I do. True Israel’s inheritance is an increase of a kingdom and new heavens and a new earth. The boarders of Israel become the universe to those who have the faith of Abraham– these are considered descendants. These co-reign with Christ. These inherit the world.
Notice how everything the dogmatic dispensationalists claim, comes crashing down everytime Jesus speaks. They claim; God has two distinct people with two distinct plans, the world waxes worse and worse, Jesus rescues his bride from a wicked world and seven years of tribulation is to come for the sons of Jacob.
But what does Jesus say? “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
The miracles of Jesus in John’s gospel account are metaphorical in nature– the literal signs are literal signs. They not only point to the deity of Jesus but also to his mission– to purge the world of wickedness and to redeem it. The divine discourses given after the miracles are also metaphors of his mission– to purge the planet of sin and bring wonderful wine instead of worthless water, to heal from an alleged distance as he did the official’s son, to do God’s work like healing the man by the pool of Bethesda, to show his glory as he walked on water, to multiply and lose nothing as in the feeding of the five thousand– there’s so much more to miracles and teachings than miracles and teachings.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” Why then do we expect darkness? Jesus said that he was the bread of life that came to give life to the world. Why then do we expect the world to die and be destroyed?
We have it all backwards. While I should tread lightly and seek to be unified with all my brethren, why don’t they seek unity with me? The Beatles come to mind– “come together, right now, over me.” We all want unity as long as it’s on our terms. As the Democrats sow discord when Republicans are in power but demand unity when they hold the reins, the christian denominations operate in a similar fashion.
Paul wanted unity with Peter but not at the expense of his hypocritical heresy but rather Paul dispensed with Peter’s heresy. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not dstraightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?'”
To the covenantal calvinists I say, “why is it that you think a tiny train is going to heaven with a small, select elect after turbulent times and several sessions and seasons of struggle? Don’t you see that Jesus came to save the world? Can’t you see that Jesus came to reverse the curse on the cross and dually defeated the devil?
To the dispensationalists I say, “look at the size of your train! There is room aboard for an astounding number of people. But your train runs around in circles, covering the same old ground year after year. ‘Jesus is near, Jesus is near, he’s right around the corner, he will be here soon!’ But nary a sign of this ‘signless event.’ You also are loading another train, ethnically, headed to Jerusalem to await a holocaust not seen in history– and you call me antisemitic.”
To the charismatic collectives with their heads in the clouds I say, “where’s your train heading; up, down, back and forth? The Spirit makes you mutter meaningless mumbling but can’t give you insight to find the rails much less the station? Consider the context!”
Read the Bible for all its worth and let Scripture interpret Scripture. Heaven sent its son to earth to purchase the earth back from sin and Satan. Jesus uses the comparative metaphor, a just juxtaposition, an anti analogy between the bread that brings life to the world and the bread that Israel ate and died. They wanted a sign after he gave them a sign, meaning they missed the metaphor. Jesus multiplied the preexisting, small, little sum of loaves and a two, tiny fish to feed the multitude and then gathers up the leftovers so that they wouldn’t be lost. Then Jesus delves deep into a divine discourse, replete with metaphorical meaning pointing back to the Old Testament Law and prophetic metaphors.
Watch: “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall not die.” Old Testament tutor: “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.“
See the sublime string. Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy and Isaiah, among others, are revealed in the miracle and the divine discourse that ensued. Jesus points back to their taught traditions and teachings to point to himself but the people missed the meaning. We don’t want to be like them, we want to be less dogmatic and more open to being taught by the Teacher. He is the bread of life, the Word, we want to be fed by the Master.
How can the world be saved? How can the world not go to hell in a handbasket? Jesus is the bread of life. “Man shall not live on bread alone…” it’s utterly ironic that when Jesus fed the five thousand they wanted to make him king. Beware: the communists promise bread for the masses. Perhaps they see the sublime string in the Bible better than we do. Appetite is a powerful persuader. Nevertheless that’s the problem with communism, eventually it is death because man shall not live on bread alone.