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The Spoken Word, or, A Fist Pump for the Master March 26, 2009

Posted by markgeil in Bible.

I’m a fan of the spoken word. The written word is good too, of course, but there’s the corporate attribute of the spoken word that allows it to motivate or bore or move or prompt. We remember great speeches not only because of the words that were spoken tebow-plaquebut also because of the person who spoke them and the results they produced. The University of Florida was so moved by Tim Tebow’s “I’m sorry, we’ll play harder” speech from last season they put it on a plaque outside their new football building!  People who read that plaque will remember the words for their own sake but they’ll also remember Tebow’s teary delivery and the call to action that resulted.

I am convinced there has never been a greater orator than the Master Himself, Jesus Christ. I had to play Jesus in a church drama once, and I was completely befuddled. In one scene, He was supposed to be tired from a long day. How does Jesus sound when He’s tired? I have no idea. Even now, though, when I read his words, I like to imagine how he phrased them, when he paused, which words he emphasized. I read his words from John 8 this morning, and got so riled up I gave a fist pump, right there in my quiet kitchen. Follow along with me as Jesus so nimbly navigates a hostile crowd with their accusatory questions:

The Jews were already a bit heated when we join the conversation at verse 48, when they level a fairly racist insult at Jesus and then declare the He’s demonic.

I do not have a demon,” Jesus answered.

How do you think he said those words? Did he chuckle at their blind ignorance? I mean, come on – calling the very Author of love and the Creator of the universe the very polar opposite of all that he is and all that he stands for – that’s more than just short-sighted. It’s downright dirty. Maybe Jesus got a little mad, and had a tinge of anger in his voice. Or maybe he was calm, with an assured monotone that let the crowd know they would never get under his skin.

On the contrary“, he continued, “I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I do not seek my glory; the One who seeks it also judges. I assure you: if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death – ever!

He didn’t sugarcoat his message, and he wasn’t afraid to repeat his polarizing Good News. They continued their assault:

“Now we know you have a demon. Abraham died and so did the prophets. You say, ‘If anyone keeps my work, he will never taste death – ever!’ Are you greater than our father Abraham who died? Even the prophets died. Who do you pretend to be?”

Now, it’s easy to guess the sound of the spoken word here. The crowd was officially offended. I imagine someone spouting, “Just who do you think you are, mister?” in that snide tone with which we’re all too familiar. If I’m Jesus here, I’m tempted to look these little people in the eye and tell them, “I’ll show you who I am” and do some Star Wars force grip thing and pick them up off the ground and prove myself. But Jesus did not look upon these naïve people with derision, but with love, and he understood the danger of openly declaring his deity and his power. How can the creator of the universe be so humble as to say what he said in reply?

If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. My Father – you say about him, ‘He is our God’ – He is the one who glorifies me. You’ve never known him, but I know Him. If I were to say I don’t know Him, I would be a liar like you.”

Oh, snap! When you call Jesus a demon, you’re a liar, and Jesus, in a remarkably logical way, calls them out. He continues:

But I do know Him, and I keep His word. Your father Abraham was overjoyed that he would see My day; he saw it and rejoiced.”

Now the crowd’s thinking, “Wait a second, did he just claim to know Father Abraham? THE Abraham?” After a stunned pause, the red-faced crowd started twitching, and one of them got up the nerve to ask,

“You aren’t 50 years old yet, and you’ve seen Abraham?”

And then, the reply to beat all replies. The tense-shifting eight words that give us a glimpse of what it’s like to be immortal. The invocation of the very Name of God spoken to Moses and understood by all the Jews in this crowd. The cause of my morning fist pump:

I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am.”

Booyah!! Those were supernatural words He spoke, and another time He uttered them people fell over on their backs. I think if I was Jesus I might have even added a subtle reverb to those last two little words. The crowd got so angry they tried to stone Jesus, right then and there. The power of the spoken word to motivate, indeed.

Try this out sometime. Take a favorite passage of scripture, and read it out loud. Even if there’s no dialogue in it, read it as though you the author was presenting it as a speech or a sermon. There is unquenchable life in these words, and the more we can viscerally experience them, the more of that life we get.



1. Top 9 of 2009 « A Window in the World - January 8, 2010

[…] The Spoken Word, or, A Fist Pump for the […]

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