You see, I heard a sermon today that touched upon our using the invisibility and non-physicality of the Holy Spirit to "understand" Him in any of many mistaken, anthropomorphic ways. And as I was in John 13-14, I was also seeing how Jesus' words were being taken out of context, even by the knuckleheads who'd just followed Him around for the last three years. And so, I made a list of the items just in John's Gospel that Jesus said and the people messed up, whether they said, "Amen" or not.
1- Miracles and magic tricks (Jn 1:47-50)
Nathaniel is amazed that Jesus could see him when He wasn't even there, and declares Him the Son Of God. Jesus' response?
Joh 1:50 Jesus answered and said to him, Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.
In other words, a miracle is a result of faith, not faith itself. What if some huckster with a partner and a two-way radio had done the same thing? There shall come a time that this very thought process will be used by the Antichrist against the world. Miracles should always compliment faith. They are not the stuff of waving a magic wand. Jesus had declared Nathaniel a Jew without guile, or deceit, because he questioned whether Phillip had actually found the Messiah. That is the attitude- question. And learn.
2- Coming to Jesus (2:1-5)
Our Catholic brethren are among the most faithful of God's people, so it is natural that Satan would heap a lot of misconceptions and mis-directions upon them. The wedding at Cana is among the most powerful, for it becomes the excuse for coming to someone other than Jesus- be it Mary or some "saint"- in order to reach Jesus, when Jesus repeatedly tells us that none get to the Father EXCEPT through Him. Where the Catholics see Cana as an example of Mary's intercession, they refuse to see that Jesus REFUSED Mary's intercession, and only acted after Mary told them "Do as HE says," and got out of the way. Praying EXCEPT to Jesus is but a waste of time, when it is so much easier- and is HIS Word- to come to Him directly.
3- Spiritual speech as opposed to physical (3:4-20)
This is where Nicodemus, a teacher of the Law, asked two questions that got to the heart of the problem. The first- how can I climb back into the womb now? when told he must be born again. It seems ridiculous in a way, but we are asked to do something actually much harder- to mentally and spiritually become a whole new person. The second, and often overlooked, was this passage:
Joh 3:9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, How can these things be?
Joh 3:10 Jesus answered and said to him, Are you the teacher of Israel and do not know these things?
The Scriptures testified of Jesus- of God's plan, of God's love, and how belief in both was necessary to be saved. But like atheists who point out what happened to the poor Sodomites, the poor Canaanites, the poor Benjaminites, as examples that "Yahweh is a cruel God and not worth following", Nicodemus was reading the stories and missing the core meaning woven throughout all.
4- Tradition and booklearning ((4;6-26; 7:15)
Not long ago, a Facebook friend posted an article defending the Church Fathers" as being pre-eminent over the scriptures. I caught one section in particular:
- "St. Augustine describes the type of person fit for the proper study and understanding of scripture in On Christian Doctrine. Fr. John Whiteford summarizes for us in his helpful tract on Sola scriptura. Such a person:
1.Loves God with his whole heart, and is empty of pride;
2.Is motivated to seek the knowledge of God’s will by faith and reverence, rather than pride or greed;
3.Has a heart subdued by piety, a purified mind, dead to the world; neither fears, nor seeks to please men;
4.Seeks nothing but knowledge of and union with Christ;
5.Hungers and thirsts after righteousness; and
6.Is diligently engaged in works of mercy and love.
Absent from this description is the kind of Ph. D. they have acquired, the university that granted it, or a mastery of the finer points of Ancient Near Eastern history. While all of these things (the six points above) are great in their own right, they neither guarantee nor even suggest that a person with that sort of experience is equipped to understand the scriptures as part of holy tradition. Without rejecting scholarship, we must be careful to balance scholarship with the necessary holiness, piety, and mystical union with Christ—which can only take place in his Body, the apostolic and catholic Church—of the interpreter."
Joh 7:14 Now about the middle of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and taught.
Joh 7:15 And the Jews marveled, saying, How does this man know letters, not being taught?
Joh 7:16 Jesus answered them and said, My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.
Joh 7:17 If anyone desires to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God, or I speak from Myself.
Joh 7:18 He who speaks of himself seeks his own glory, but he who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.
Joh 7:19 Did not Moses give you the Law? And yet not one of you keeps the Law! Why do you seek to kill Me?
Which is much like the discussion of tradition between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. She brought up three things to defend tradition- and they are actually three worst things about tradition. First, "I am a child of Abraham." This was like me, using the phrase, "That's okay, I'm a Catholic" when two friends tried to bring me to Christ. Jesus would later tell the priests, "I can make descendants for Abraham out of these rocks". I had a discussion a while back on this same friend's site when he posted the meme "I am a Roman Catholic (big letters), and I believe in Jesus Christ (small print)". You wouldn't believe the derision I got from one lady who disagreed with my point that the focus should be on the second, not the first.
Second, the woman told Jesus, "Our Fathers did thus and so..." We're only doing as we were told. I thank God I was never like that. When I was a teen, I told my Dad I was registering to vote as an independent. "We are Democrats," he said. I replied, "maybe you are... I want to choose for myself." Counting tradition higher than the Word of God is just like that. It takes away your option to learn, to choose. To see what Jesus REALLY meant.
Third, she was more worried about WHERE to worship than HOW to worship. Jesus didn't say, you must go to this denomination, this group, or this building. He said, Worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth. Period. The person who argued against me had a real hard time with Mark 9:40/Matthew 12:30/Luke 9:50- a point important enough to make it into 3 of 4 Gospels:
Luk 9:49 And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out demons in Your name. And we prevented him, because he does not follow us.
Luk 9:50 And Jesus said to him, Do not prevent him, for he who is not against us is for us.
If I am not a Catholic, I am a heretic. Simple as that. That is the gift of prioritizing the Church Fathers.
5- Example and the simplicity of it all ( 6:60; chapter 13)
As this is getting windy, I'll finish up here with two quick ones. Chapter 6 contains the discourse on the "eat My Flesh and drink My Blood" thing. Which of course, the Church Fathers turned into the whole distracting and unnecessary transubstantiation debate, and the disciples turned into a difficult teaching (while the Pharisees and Romans turned into a cannibalism thing). The point is easy if you read the WHOLE thing: Even manna, the food from heaven itself, was just food. What God was giving them now would feed their souls. But, to be worthwhile, this Bread would have to be crucified in our name- and we would have to share in it. But tied up in the parable-like phrasing, the people who weren't willing to look beyond their stomachs said, this is too hard. So Jesus boiled it down. No one can come to me except as granted by My Father in Heaven. But they were still trying to dope out having a Jesus-and-mayo sandwich, and gave up.
Jesus taught by example. By actions beyond mere words. Peter messed that up- one of many times- when he rejected Jesus washing His feet. The point was to be willing to humble yourself before others. Jesus didn't mind, because He knew the Glory that awaited Him. Peter only saw his hero acting like a slave. The Bible doesn't make things hard. Jesus didn't make things hard. We make them hard.
Isn't it time to follow Jesus' example and hit the easy button? Not that the doing is easy, far from it. But if you REALLY hear what He's saying- rejecting the physical, the traditional, the "learned"- the UNDERSTANDING is a piece of cake.
The links I promised:
Arlee Bird's A Few Words: Is Anger Unhealthy?
Disconnected's Is God Dead?