Jesus did not speak in similes.
You might remember your nerdy English teacher rambling on about similes, how they are a comparison between two unlike things, using the word “like” or “as.” In the same breath, said nerdy English teacher, probably spoke about metaphor: a comparison between two unlike things not using the word “like” or “as.”
Even though English was a favorite of mine, and even though I’ve always been a poetic guy, it was lost on me: why was it so important that we have a different term for comparisons when they don’t have the word “like” or “as.” I was unclear on how those little words might make much of a difference.
Maybe I’m slow. It’s only as an adult I’ve come to see the huge difference between “Mary had a little lamb, and it’s fleece was white as snow.” (A simile) and “Mary had a little lamb. It’s fleece was snow.” (A metaphor.)
The latter sentence invites us into a field to play with the meaning of words. It flirts with us a little bit. Perhaps it’s not a metaphor at all, but some sort of snow-lamb-creature. Even if we decide not to take the words literally, we are left with some mystery, some room for interpretation. In preceisely what ways was the fleece snow-like?
Jesus spoke in metaphor.
He does not use the words “like” or “as” when he compared himself to light, truth, bread, water, ways (as in a path; see last post for more on this) or ladders (see next post)
Though he sometimes enhances his meanings– usually at the request at his bumbling (like me!) disciples, Jesus’ words begin in mystery, they begin with this space for us to move around in and explore what it is he means.
When Jesus said he is the way, I take him to mean that he is the path toward God the father. Further, I take him to mean that their is something holy not only in Him as our destination, but also in the process of seeking Him. We, like Israel, wrestle with God himself and are blessed for this wrestling, even when it leaves us hurt…
Jesus’ metaphors (not similes!) themselves are an invitation to be with him, the path, as we figure out just what they all mean.
It makes my brain hurt, a little.