Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what He was telling them. John 10:6
The Gospel shows clearly that the clash between Jesus and the Pharisees was indeed a clash between “a Divine and Divergent Thinker” and hundreds of “closed and convergent thinkers,” a clash between “a Spiritual and Fluid Mind,” and myriads of “literal, rigid, and narrow minds.”
We find the Pharisees on the ancient track of tradition, and Jesus at the gateway of a new garden, inviting them, and even pleading with them, to leave their track for a moment to enter the paradise of His Presence. He invites them to come and marvel at the beauty of His splendid and heavenly flowers. Without any question, every one of those who saw the Divine Splendor in Jesus — disciples like Peter, John, and Mary Magdalene — was endowed with a divergent, fluid, and spiritual mind.
Each of them could see the most powerful King in that poor Son of a carpenter, the most glorious Face behind the face of that homeless Man. Each of them could behold in Him the whole Kingdom of Heaven blazing with all its beauty and splendor.
Jesus appeared in two opposite ways to the people of His time — and still does to the people of our time. “The sleepers” saw Him, and still see Him to this day, as an ordinary man. The Heavenly Thief, who came from heaven, walked among “the sleepers” without disturbing their dreams, without being detected. But “the awakened” were not fooled by His “mask.” They saw Jesus as the sun shining with all His glory and greatness. To them He was, and still is, as visible as the lightning that “comes from the east and flashes to the west” (Matt. 24:27).
Could any of the Pharisees with hearts hardened with time and burdened with tradition, see the hidden glory of Jesus? The narrow-minded “one way” thinking Pharisees, with their massive loads of preconceived notions and list of preconditions, moved on the track of tradition with the speed of a mighty train.
But in the forest of parables, metaphors and inner meanings, they stood powerless. They saw no light beyond their dark glasses of tradition, no truth beyond their preconceived notions. Note the following dialogue concerning the meaning of a simple metaphor “the sky:”
Jesus: I have come down from the sky … Christ (John 6:38)
Pharisees: Surely this is Jesus, son of Joseph; we know His father and mother. How can He say, “I have come down from the sky?” (John 6:42)
All through the Bible we see a clear contrast between the Spiritual Mind of Jesus and the literal minds of the Pharisees:
Pharisees: Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath? (Mark 2:24)
Jesus: The Sabbath was made for men, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)
Jesus: I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. (John 3:3)
Pharisees: How can a man be born when he is old? … Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born! (John 3:4)
Pharisees and teachers of the law: Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders …? (Mark 7:5)
Jesus: You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men. (Mark 7:8)
Jesus: I am with you only for a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. (John 7:33-34)
Pharisees: Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? (John 7:35)
Jesus: I stand with the Father who sent me. (John 8:16)
Pharisees: Where is your father? (John 8:19)
Jesus: If you hold to my teaching … you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:3132)
Pharisees: We … have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free? (John 8:33).
Jesus: If a man keeps my word, he will never see death. (John 8:51)
Pharisees: Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are? (John 8:52-53).
Jesus: Your father, Abraham, rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad. (John 8:56).
Pharisees: You are not yet 50 years old …and you have seen Abraham! (John 8:57)
Jesus: Before Abraham was born, I am! (John 8:58).
After hearing Jesus say, “I am,” the Pharisees could take it no more: “They picked up stones to stone him” (John 8:59).
Consider also this example: The Jews believed that before the Messiah comes, Elijah must come from the sky because, according to Hebrew Scriptures, he was “seen” going up to “the sky:” Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more.( II Kings 2:11-12)
Was it not then reasonable to expect and see “the same” Elijah come down from the sky the same way he had gone up? Yet none of this happened. What a test to the literal and narrow-minded! When the Jews asked Jesus about the return of Elijah, He simply said that John the Baptist was the expected Elijah (Matt. 17:11-13). To “convergent thinkers,” this claim is outrageous. Elijah and John were two different persons born to different parents, centuries apart.
Further, no one, including John, believed that he had come down from the sky. Yet to the divergent, spiritual and imaginative thinkers, this did not pose a problem. They readily understood and accepted Jesus’ statement.
After all, we are spirits with bodies, not bodies with spirits. Our bodies are only garments we borrow for a while from the earth, and then return to the earth. The spirit alone gives life; the flesh is of no avail [counts for nothing NIV]. John 6:63 NEB.
To test yourself to see whether you are a convergent-conventional or a divergent-creative thinker, imagine you were a Pharisee living at the time of Jesus. If you had faced this test, do you think you would have passed it? If you would have, you are indeed blessed. You are endowed with the precious gift of “Spiritual Thinking.” Celebrate this gift.
If you think you would have failed the test, then you may have a “Spiritual Handicap.” But you are not alone. As we noted, a major difference between the two Modes of Thinking is this: The convergent-reductionistic mind tends to focus on a small part of the picture; the divergent-global mind tends to focus on the whole picture. The letter-minded Pharisees always looked for a specific verse to refute Jesus.
Instead of looking at the glory of the Sun — the light of the world — they looked at the Sabbath. Their narrow perspective caused them to deny their Lord. Their example should serve as a wake up call to every sincere Christian.
Jesus had no father and was homeless, yet when some people who were searching for Him asked Him where He had been, he said: Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house? (Luke 2:49 NIV). Note this question and answer from Jesus: Why is My language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. Christ (John 8:43).
Why were the Pharisees unable to hear? Because they could not understand the Spiritual Language. They were surface and narrow thinkers, lovers of the letter, not the Spirit. To be just in our judgment, we must attain true understanding, and to attain true understanding, we must pass from the surface or “the letter” into “the spirit,” from the shell into the pearl.
Do not judge superficially, but be just in your judgment. John 7:24
Consider the meaning of the word “Law” in this statement from Jesus:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the prophets … but to fulfill them. Christ (Matt. 5:17). What does Jesus mean by “the Law”? Does He mean specific “laws” or does He mean the principle behind the law, namely order and justice in society?
If we think with a literal mind, we have to conclude that, God forbid, Jesus lied to his listeners. Because, as we know, He changed several Jewish laws, including the law of divorce. The literal-minded Pharisees did not need any other reason to deny Jesus. They could accuse Him of lying. It is evident, we must discern Jesus’ statement spiritually.
Once again we see the grave dangers of being literal-minded. The following quotation from Romans clarifies the spiritual meaning of Law from God’s spiritual perspective:
“A man is a Jew if he is one inwardly…by the Spirit [in the spirit ASV], not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:28).
It seems history repeats itself. Many literal-minded Christians of this age are following the example of the Pharisees. Instead of focusing on the big picture, that is always enlightened with “the Spirit,” they focus on the small picture, that is darkened and obscured by the rigid and narrow walls of “the letter.” Most believers submit their most precious gift—their everlasting destiny—to tradition and to what “authority figures” tell them to be the truth. Who are those “authority figures” They are as fallible as everyone else. Believers seldom question or doubt the authority figures. Let us explore, how traditions gradually gain the status of truth, how “ideas” or mere “opinions” expressed by fallible people are accepted and gradually elevated to the position of “unquestionable and self-evident facts.”
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