“It is the Spirit Who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life.” John 6:63
John Steinbeck is credited with having said words take on flavors and aromas like butter in the refrigerator. Chances are if you’ve been around people a while, you’ve learned things that are said have a way of getting further away from their original meaning the more they’re passed around. It doesn’t matter if you learned the lesson playing the game “Gossip” in which a story or phrase is repeated from person to person until it gets back around to its originator sounding nothing like it did when it left, or if you learned the lesson supervising people who interpret your guidance in ways that bear no resemblance to what you said. In both cases, it’s the same lesson.
One man tells a friend about his 401k, and the friend tells someone else, referring to it as a retirement account. That person interprets “retirement” as “social security” and uses those words when relaying the information to a fourth person. You get the idea. Each person had no intention of changing the facts, yet the use of other than exactly the original word changes the meaning altogether. As Mark Twain famously said, The difference between the right word and nearly the right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug. Maybe this dynamic has some bearing on how an event as vibrant as the Last Adam’s resurrection can become something dry, dusty, and lifeless.
Jesus asked the disciples what people said about Him, and none of it was accurate. Then He asked Peter, who got it right: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus called Peter blessed because His Father had revealed this to Peter. Jesus said He would build His church, His body, His people on this revelation, from which we can safely infer Jesus was including the simple fact that Peter had heard from God, as well as, what he’d heard. (Matthew 16:13-19)
The prophet Jeremiah put it this way, “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:33,34)
Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27)
The prophet Elijah recorded this event, “Then He [God] said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)
Let’s not mince words. The things people say run the gamut from “God is dead.” to “Yes, Lord. Okay, Lord,” expressed during head-ducking acknowledgements of a running divine monologue in their heads. People’s behavior notwithstanding, the Lord Jesus, on whom we have believed, said He would speak to us. He said our Heavenly Father would send us a Comforter, a Guide, the Holy Spirit, Who would teach us to walk in His way.
According to the prophet Isaiah, that most profound oracle, “A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray.” (Isaiah 35:8)
We don’t merely live by physical sustenance, but by the words, yes the exact words, that come from God’s mouth to our ears. It’s a marvelous, wondrous thing, that we should hear Him, perhaps even more incredible than the fact that He hears us. In fact, Jesus entire life’s work is built on it. Let’s go forth, then, in what we’ve heard, individually and as a people.
Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior,
Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus my Savior,
Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!
Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior,
He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes.
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
© Melissa Kay Simonds