Treasured Words, Many or Few
That Jesus had many things to say while he lived on this earth and that his disciples came to understand the significance of his words is obvious by looking at the red letter edition of the Bible! There are pages of verses in red. Treasure-filled treatises. What less would we expect from the Word that spoke creation into existence who became flesh and dwelt (and spoke) among us?
But sometimes, Jesus gave a full, significant, amazing, life-giving answer in two words or less. With only a few words, Jesus could speak with a quiet gentleness or with an authority that thundered in its confidence.
Words of Compassion
Fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the Chosen Servant of the Lord who would “not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street,” (Isa 42:2; Mat 12:19), Jesus whispered compassion to hurting, sorrowful people who come to him with desperate requests for healing. His simple responses were gentle reassurances of his mercy.
To the leper who knelt before Jesus imploring, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean,” Jesus simply responds, “I will. Be clean.” Thelō. Katharisthēti (Mat. 8:3). With those two words, the leper was healed. The leper had faith in the ability of Jesus. Jesus confirmed that he was more than able. He was willing. His compassion moved him to touch the unclean and make him whole.
It was a single word of Jesus that a deaf and mute man first heard. He had seen his community begging Jesus for something but could not hear their words. His deafness meant communication was always fraught with misunderstandings. Jesus took the man aside from the crowd, touched his ears and tongue and said, “Be opened.” (“Ephphatha”) Dianoichthēti (Mark 7:34). Clear and compassionate, the words brought healing.
Likewise, Jairus’s daughter heard the voice of Jesus call her back to the living with a gentle, “Child, arise.” pais egeire (Luke 8:54). In these two words the compassion and power of Jesus is seen. Jairus had believed that Jesus could heal his daughter. When she died, he, his servants and the mourners assumed all hope of help was gone. With a tender Father’s heart, Jesus wakes her up with the sound of his voice.
We can imagine the disorientation of the disciples after witnessing the crucifixion and then hearing the rumors of a resurrection. Again and again, we find Jesus coming to them and gently dispelling their confusion with one or two words that speak volumes of compassion. The first recorded words we have of the risen Christ are to Mary who in her grief thought Jesus was the gardener at the tomb. He calls her by name, and everything changes. Mariam (John 20:16).
Before he interpreted the scriptures to the two disciples he met on the road to Emmaus, he drew out from them, like a skillful counselor, their disappointment and confusion with the question, “What things?” Poia (Luke 24:19).
Two weeks later he reveals himself again to the disciples who were fishing on the Sea of Galilee. In a miracle reminiscent of one three years earlier, he fills their nets with fish. As they arrive at the shore astonished, they find he has already prepared breakfast for them and simply invites them to, “Come and have breakfast.” Deute aristēsate (John 21:12)
With only a few words, Jesus could speak with a quiet gentleness or with an authority that thundered in its confidence.
Words of Authority
The people who heard Jesus’s sermon on the mountaintop were amazed at the authority with which he taught. That same authority gave weight to his commands. No created thing dared to disobey a single word. The wind and sea were calmed at his command, “Peace! Be still!” Siōpa pephimōso (Mark 4:39). The disciples who had been afraid of the storm were, at the word of Jesus, put in great fear of him who the storm obeyed.
The demons, knowing their required submission to the Son of God, came out of the men at the tombs and rushed into a herd of pigs when Jesus uttered one word, “Go.” Hypagete (Mat. 8:32).
On a stormy night in the middle of the sea when Jesus commanded, “Come,” Elthe (Mat 14:29) Peter got out of the boat and walked on water to go to Jesus.
There are two occasions we know when Jesus raised his voice. He did so when he summoned Lazarus from the departed, “Come out.” deuro exō (John 11:43). Raised to life at the command, Lazarus startled all gathered when he walked, fully alive, out of the tomb.
Jesus raised his voice again when he cried out from the cross that one authoritative word that signified Jesus had accomplished all the Father’s will. “It is finished.” Tetelestai (John 19:30; Mat. 27:50). That one word still rings down through redemptive history.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son.” (Heb. 1:1) The thundering voice of God so often referred to in the Old Testament and in Revelation was heard in the weightiness of Jesus’s simple commands or truth claims. The still small whisper of God’s voice that Elijah heard after the earthquake was also heard in Jesus’s gentle, personal responses to the frail and confused. Whether it is the Sermon on the Mount, the Upper Room Discourse or a simple one or two word answer, we will do well to “Listen to him.” (Luke 9:35).
Lois Krogh is the author of Pour Out Your Heart Prayer Journal: A Planner for a Life of Prayer.
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