Today's Gospel in Art - I have been telling you in metaphors

  • Patrick van der Vorst

Jesus planting a vine as the Good Shepherd, by Josefine Allmayer,1930 © Christian Art

Jesus planting a vine as the Good Shepherd, by Josefine Allmayer,1930 © Christian Art

Gospel of 23rd May 2020 - John 16:23-28

Jesus said to his disciples:

'I tell you most solemnly, anything you ask for from the Father he will grant in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete. I have been telling you all this in metaphors, the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in metaphors; but tell you about the Father in plain words.

When that day comes you will ask in my name; and I do not say that I shall pray to the Father for you, because the Father himself loves you for loving me and believing that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world and now I leave the world to go to the Father.'

Jesus uses the word 'metaphor' twice in today's reading. Yes, Jesus was teaching in parables, allegories and metaphors, all in order to communicate a broader spiritual point He wanted to make to us. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable. Metaphors run throughout Scripture, also in the Old Testament (for example Isaiah 64:8: 'We are the clay, and You our potter', where God is compared to a potter and we are the clay; or Psalm 23:1: 'The Lord is my shepherd', where God is compared to a shepherd, someone whose duty it is to look after His sheep). Jesus continues this tradition. Think of 'I am the bread of life' or ''I am the Light of the world' or 'I am the vine; you are the branches'… we are all very familiar with these metaphors.

When Jesus made these statements about Himself, using metaphors, it allowed Him to say very complex things in a fairly simple way for us to understand. For example if we look at the vine and branches metaphor, Jesus is making a whole series of points which otherwise would be very hard to explain, but by using the image of a vine as a metaphor, He paints various points: a vine and its branches implies an organic relationship; it implies growth; it implies that our faith is not static; it shows how closely linked we are to Him; how dependent we are on the roots of the vine; the oneness of us all etc… trying to tell all this without the use of a metaphor would be near impossible.

After yesterday's window with paper cut hearts, today I am showing you an image of a paper cut silhouette postcard by Austrian born artist Josefine Allmayer, who specialised in these 'Scherenschnitte' (literally translates into English as 'scissor cuts'). Our card depicts various metaphors combined: the good shepherd, the paschal lamb, the gardener, the vine… An image I have always liked...


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Tags: Christian Art Today, Patrick van der Vorst, Josefine Allmayer

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