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Talking in riddles?

"Then Jesus' disciples said, "Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech." John 16.29

Sometimes we can feel like the disciples, frustrated that Jesus or the Bible doesn't spell things out. Why is there no explanation of the Trinity for example? Or why wouldn't Jesus be explicit about when he will return? Why didn't Job get the answer to his suffering, or Paul relief from the thorn in his flesh?

These remain mysteries as does much else in relation to God. And there are reasons: talk about God stretches our minds beyond their reach. That is why we must have recourse to "indirect" language, like signs and symbols, analogies and metaphors and, of course, stories. These do not imply that what they describe don't exist or never happened. They are more like door-ways into ultimate reality, which is either too complex or too profound for us to grasp in a literal sense.

Take Holy Communion, as an example. No one would claim that the bread and wine is the body and blood of Jesus in a literal sense but who would deny that Christ himself is present in the sacrament? Should we get hung up about whether Jonah really did spend three days underwater in the belly of a whale, or is it more important to focus on the implications of a reluctant prophet, through whom God still speaks and whose apparent experience anticipates Jesus' actual death and resurrection?



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