We often speak of things as a ‘language’ besides our common tongue. Computer languages, or coding, or languages of love or art or design. But unfortunately in the dismal state of our education we often miss the basics of actual language. Our spoken or written language is capable of a lot more than many people are aware of. Language can be like a code where there is extra meaning than what you see on the surface. Language can say half a dozen things with a single line, all legitimate and all intended. Those who speak or write language may even convey more meaning than they intended. Not just by making errors but by communicating rightly. Borrowed phrases may have more meaning than they even knew. There may be more senses than they were aware of when they used a single sense, and yet the unintended adds richness, which is legitimate.
We are all moderns in our way of speech. We were all raised under modernism, despite the rebellion of post-modernism in some areas. Modernism was born as a result of science, or the worship of science. We began to appreciate what disciplined, careful, technical study could bring us, fabulous machines that could make life on this earth easier. So, we began treating everything like a machine, persons, groups of people, social relationships, religion, and language. C. S. Lewis always makes a connection between magic and science. Because really the desire is the same. The old magicians wanted to control this world just like the modern scientists. By doing this we thought we were doing something better. But like all false worship it leads to disaster. Christendom forgot it’s worship of Jesus the Word, and began to worship it’s own achievements, and whatever ‘worked’ now became good. We thought that language that was more and more technical and more and more precise was better, it works in the lab. Unfortunately we are not machines, fortunately we are not machines.
While the goal of most pre-modern education was to teach people how to read, today we don’t know how to read. We were taught a strange combination of finding whatever we want in the text and being nit pickers about spelling and grammar. But we are missing out on all the fun, we are missing out on all the meaning. The nature of language is poetic. Words are not words, they are symbols for words. The word ‘house’ is not a house, it is a metaphor, those five roman characters conjure up meaning. The images brought to the mind of every person may be different but each is still be the literal meaning of house. But each connection is a metaphor, that’s just how it works. We don’t really know how, and inquisitions into it have tended to actually make us know less. This is deconstruction.
Texts may be like computer code in the way they create images in the minds of the hearers. We are very ill trained in understanding current texts. Old, or ancient readings in reading texts require even more work and practice. The most honest approach is to try to put ourselves in the place of the hearers. It requires great imagination, or charity to see the world as they did. Humbly removing our selves from the equation. When you practice doing this, and really love it, it really opens things up in an incredible way. So many levels, so much meaning.
I was so struck by the larger picture of chapters six, seven and eight of Mark’s gospel. The Disciples have been in our shoes. Before they were the foundation stones, upon which the whole church is build (Ephesians 2:20), they were clueless. They portray themselves as clueless often, leading further credence to the truth of their story. Those blunt words which Jesus often uttered, he says again in Mark 8: 21 ”You still don’t understand?” These are words not even allowed between teacher and student these days, but Jesus the great teacher found them appropriate. And he was right, he did get through to them. After the resurrection, they put it all together. We can see it in the way Mark put his gospel together. It might not be the exact order of events with every minute detail of everything Jesus did or said. But it is a path for others to follow, bread crumbs.
Jesus sends out the disciples in 6:7 and he tells them not to take any bread. They made a huge raucous, even King Herod heard about it. Then they find themselves in the country with thousands of people and no food. Jesus leads his flocks to green grass and feeds them, bread, with twelve baskets left over. Bread for the twelve tribes, he is here to feed Israel. Then he gets into a fight with the religious leaders who think his disciples are eating their bread incorrectly. Jesus rebukes them “What goes into a man is not what defiles him but what comes from his heart is what defiles him.” We are working on a different level here, and his disciples still don’t get it. But he keeps working on them. Then a gentile woman comes to him begging for crumbs, begging for her daughter to be healed. Jesus heals her daughter. Then again he and his disciples were out in the wilderness with a great crowd and no food. Jesus again feeds them, bread, this time with seven baskets left over. A number or a sign of completeness, he had fed the Gentiles, as the woman requested, he fed the whole world in completeness. Then the stark contrast as the religious leaders beg for a sign. He has given them more signs than they could possibly understand. They are blind, their sin has blinded them, to the bread of life standing before them. And the poor disciples don’t demand a sign they don’t even seem to know they should be looking for one. “We don’t have any bread” never have truer words been spoken, they don’t have any bread even though he is right there. After all that, a conversation on another topic spurs them to worry about bread! They have all the bread they could ever wish for, did they miss the signs too? They have the bread of life. They don’t need to worry about their physical well being. Who cares? All they need is Jesus. They don’t need the rules of the Pharisees or the diligent preparation of packing a lunch, they need Jesus. This man recreates with his hands and they are afraid of going hungry. Worse they are afraid he is worried about going hungry and upset at them for not being prepared. They are prepared, they have Jesus. Again Jesus is more concerned about them, than himself. He teaches them, ever so bluntly “Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember”. Jesus recaps the story, Mark learned well.
Do we learn? It is easy to get caught up in the details, focusing on how Jesus changed dietary laws, focusing on how bad the Pharisees were, focusing on how incredible Jesus’ miracles were. But the point is we need Jesus. He is the bread of life and we can trust him to provide for our needs. He offers the bread of his very Words. They remake what is wrong with the world. They help us to do the same. We ignore them at our own peril. And ignoring them is very easy to do. Jesus wanted to teach them to be careful about the Pharisees, they are still stuck back on square one, trusting Jesus. We can do the same thing focusing on all the false teachers instead of clinging to the bread of life. Rely on Jesus and then you can work your way up to diciphering false teachers.