The Prophet Jesus, our Master, nearly always speaks to us from the pages of the Scriptures in parables, symbolically. But this is the most forgotten and ignored Truth of his ministry, and causes much misinterpretation.
The Book of Mark tells us, “With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.” Mark 4:33-34
In the Book of John, we read of Jesus being called a door.
“So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:7-12
But was he REALLY a wooden door? Did he REALLY lead around a small flock of animals? Of course not. If one is a Literalist, it makes no sense, as it made no sense. But if one understands that we are the sheep, and he’s the shepherd, and that we, through him (like walking towards and then through a door) may have more abundant, productive lives, the parable opens to us and becomes clear.
When Jesus spoke of himself and his teachings as Living Water, the Samaritan woman at the well asked, "Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?” Obviously, he was speaking in metaphor.
Jesus is compared to a Narrow Gate. But again, he had no stones or hinges, but instead offered the difficult (but holy) way to serve and know God.
Nicodemus asks Jesus what he meant by being “Born again.” Surely, one can't crawl into his mother’s womb to be once again born! Jesus explains that he was speaking symbolically.
Luckily, most people today understand this. Most see the Jesus really wasn't a door, made of wood and hinges, or a bucket of water, sloshing around ancient Judea.
But most don’t understand that all of the Gospel stories should be taken as Parabolic and Symbolic, and their extreme literalism obscures and sometimes warps the vital teachings Jesus left to us.
When Jesus says one must eat of his flesh and drink of his blood, they, like the ancient Jews who heard this literally, ask, “"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" and they invent man-made doctrines that turn ordinary food, as if by magic, into flesh and blood.
When the Jews heard Jesus say, "My Father is working until now, and I am working." (John 5:18) they immediately accused him of “making himself equal with God.” But Jesus had repeatedly said that he could do nothing on his own without God, that he was God’s Prophet, that God was working through him, that he was God’s Son because he heard and obeyed God and said often that he was sent by God. And yet, most who have read the Gospels have believed instead the Jewish lawyers sent to accuse him falsely (on this and other occasions) rather than God’s Anointed One.
Jesus is clearly speaking as the metaphorical shepherd in John 10:14-15, saying “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Clearly, again, he is not a literal shepherd of animals, but the meaning is clear: he is laying down his life for his followers – those who obey him.
Clarifying, he says also (using the symbolism of friendship) “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:13-14.) There, neatly laid out, without obfuscation or confusion, is why Jesus died, and it is a call to obey our Prophet and Master’s example. But other men have crafted many clever ways which purport to show that Jesus died in order to allow us to get into heaven simply by believing his death was magical, when in fact, his life and death calls us to repent from sinning, obey God’s commandments, and forgive and serve Others. That, not mere belief, will allow God to reward us with eternal life.
“Scripture” is only what bears witness to what is true. But if we willfully misread scripture, ignoring our God-given Reason in order to interpret and understand it, pretending the words are something other than what they are, we obscure its meaning, and lose the precious teachings the Master Jesus gave to us during his ministry.
“Then the disciples came and said to him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" (Matt. 13:10)
“This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” (John 10:6)
“The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (John 6:52)
“Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" (John 3:4)
“The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?” Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:11-14)
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15)
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:13-14)