Holy Week Commentary Series (Part 4) – Spy Wednesday: The Spirit and the Letter

seed of life

Looking at a seed from the outside, it appears to be dead. What we call the seed coat or husk is plain and hard, but it serves an important purpose: it protects the living germ inside. Without a protective covering, the future of the seed would be vulnerable to exposure and extinction. But, under the right conditions, the secrets of a seed can be revealed and grow into a beautiful tree that bears wonderful fruit and seeds plentifully.

Jesus taught many times that the truth is like a seed. The inner, spiritual portion is alive and has potential to grow into something wonderful. But, that inner truth is hidden. It is not obvious to a casual observer. It is shrouded in layers of protective covering to preserve its purity and potential.

So what covers the truth? Words. Stories. Books. Rules. Organizations. Laws. These can function as preservative and delivery mechanisms, but if the coverings are mistaken for the real thing, judgment and death take the place of liberty and life.

The words metaphor, analogy, and parable come from Greek:
meta (across, through) phero (to carry, make publicly known)
ana (upward) logos (word, message)
para (beside) ballo (to cast)

The symbolic truths presented by Jesus carry, point up to, and mirror the spirit of truth. A focus on inner meaning and application is esoteric (eso– meaning “inner”), while a focus on outer meaning and application is exoteric (exo– meaning “outer”).

Gnostic mysteries (from the Greek gnosis “knowledge from personal experience” and musterion “a hidden thing or mystery”) and esoteric principles require some degree of preparation before they can be understood or applied. Esoteric gnostics must be patient and avoid worldly distractions and temptations.

In contrast, exoteric success only requires focus on practicalities, appearances, technicalities, and loopholes: the shell of the seed. Exoteric literalists praise the virtues of uniform appearance and literal interpretation. They see organic growth as messy and unorthodox. They want control and power.

The term “Spy Wednesday” refers to Judas’s secret agreement with the Jews to reveal Jesus. Judas was a literalist who had observed Jesus firsthand and knew he was the promised messiah. Jesus had avoided arrest before, but this would force the truth into the open and re-establish the throne of David’s kingdom. Of course, he was supremely disappointed that his attempted power play ended his political ambition. John 12:24-25:

24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

When the mortal husk of Jesus’s body died away two days later, his eternal soul sprouted into the tree of life. The fruit of that tree is not to be enjoyed by the natural body, but by the soul. Lehi testified that it was worth the personal inner journey to find it. If you intend to seek it, don’t let the husks of this world and its trappings distract you from your quest.

For part 5 in this series, click here.