top of page

Jesus "as he lives and as he lives"

The interpretation of Willy Wiedmann's picture of the feeding of the 4000


by Daniel Rossa (Note generally for necessary theological background knowledge, please click here: The feeding of the 4000 and that of the 5000)


Because of what is shown, Wiedmann's picture is easy to recognize as the power supply for the 4000 - and not the 5000 -: He has drawn exactly seven (!) Baskets in the four (!) Corners of his picture. In addition, his Jesus depicted in the middle surprisingly has four (!) Hands with which he distributes the seven (!) Loaves of bread among the people, unless one would like to assume that a pair of them are his feet - because the food is distributed with his feet not only contradicts the purity regulations of Judaism, but also the "common sense" of the food culture of other peoples. Then the doubling of the hands of Jesus can be interpreted as the doubling of his efforts, because he now also turns to the non-Jews, feels sent to Jews and non-Jews as it were.


However, the use of all four limbs for food distribution could also be seen as a representation of inclusion: After all, there are also people who have had to learn and have learned to live their entire everyday life with their feet due to physical damage (e.g. from thalidomide). It goes without saying that this independent lifestyle also means that they eat their “daily bread” independently - with their feet, of course. To deny them our community for this would be cruel and inhuman.


So if you want to see Jesus here distributing bread among the people with all four limbs so that they can eat together, then this interpretation of Wiedmann's representation of the feeding of the 4,000 is a sign that physically handicapped people are also seen To experience acceptance into the Christian meal and thus life community!


The number four, which is decisive in addition to the number seven, is also emphasized by the two diagonals that run twice from one of the four corners of the picture to the diagonally opposite corner of the picture: They point in all four directions, in which the assembled and abstractly indicated crowd extends . By dividing the picture by the diagonal, it actually symbolically consists of four triangular (!) "Quarters", each in the "cartographic" north, south, west and east of the picture. The abstractly indicated people who have gathered around Jesus in a crowd come from all “corners” of the world - come together from all directions. In this, too, Wiedmann's picture accurately expresses what Mark wanted to say with his story of the feeding of the 4,000: In it, Jesus' message of a life of people in the kingdom of God, in which God dwells among them, is no longer only intended for the Jews, but to be given to all peoples, to all people on earth. In the feeding, that (those present) can even be experienced. The reality of the kingdom of God, the life in God's spirit, takes its course in the center of the picture, at the place where Wiedmann depicts Jesus, "as he lets (!) And lives": how he feeds people from his food Community gives the seven loaves of bread to eat. It is the point that is also referred to as the center of the picture by the two diagonals, because they cross in it and thus not only form a cross (!) In the center of the picture, but at the same time helped the Jesus depicted there, as he was given in his life and has shared, crucify (!), ie represent him as crucified, so that in the crucified the image of a servant and not a ruler becomes visible.


The cross thus becomes a symbol of the servant attitude to life that Jesus exemplified in his life - indeed its ultimate consequence. This corresponds fully to the theology of Mark. From Jesus as the central and initial point, the kingdom of God extends, following the lines that have emerged from the picture diagonals, to the edges of the picture - to the ends of the earth, to its last nooks and crannies. At the end of this expansion there are the seven remaining baskets, to which the seven loaves of bread have grown in the course of the expansion of the kingdom of God. The logic in the kingdom of God is therefore disproportionate: the food does not become scarcer the more people come to it; but the more it spreads among people, the more is available for the life of people in the kingdom of God. This logic finds a possible explanation in the way in which Wiedmann entered the fish, of which Mk is also mentioned, in his picture. There are not two - as is the case with the feeding of the 5000 in Mk 6.38 (and also in Wiedmann's own presentation of the feeding of the 5000), but Mk speaks of "some fish" ( 8.7). At Wiedmann there are five fish that are clearly recognizable in the crowd. In his picture you cannot see how Jesus gives them to the people - only the clearly visible "bread crusts" come from Jesus. The fish, on the other hand, are depicted as circulating among the people and the way they are depicted is more like the type of lines and color used by Wiedmann for the crowd. So one could assume that for him they come from the people themselves, that they are contributed by the people themselves: Perhaps everyone who has brought something will unpack something and share it with the others, following the example of Jesus and his disciples. This miracle of generosity and solidarity could be the solution to the riddle, why in the community in the spirit of God, why in the kingdom of God food does not become scarcer for more people, but grows with the number of people.


The fact that the entire crowd, including the movement initiated in them by Jesus and their ultimately so productive process down to the last corner of the world can be seen in Wiedmann's image as a symbol for the kingdom of God, is also evident from the fact that all of this can be seen takes place under the - even fourfold - sign of the triangle, which functions for him in his pictures as a symbol for the presence of God. And the fact that four of these triangles can be found here can be an indication of the all-pervasive power of these triangles, whose productive - better still: abundant - result is brought to perfect completion ("40") at the end of time and is beyond the entire earth ("4"), as here extends over the entire painting surface - namely on one of the 3,333 one-piece sheets of which the Wiedmann Bible is composed.