Literally, Just a Word


“I literally want to poke my eyes out.” 

At least that’s the way I feel anytime someone uses the word literally when they really mean figuratively.  There’s no doubt that this has become a part of your daily conversations by now, somebody will show up to work and say, “That drive, literally, took me forever.” 

[insert my frustrated face-palm here]

Nope. It did not take forever. 

It may have taken you twenty-seven times as long as it should have taken you, but it absolutely did not take forever. If it took forever, you would still be driving. It was literally a lot less than forever. 

Or they will tell you about the movie they saw over the weekend and say, “I was literally laughing my head off.”  Now that would be hysterical, but that definitely did not literally happen. 

Merriam-Webster doesn’t help this annoying phenomena because literally now also means, “in effect: virtually.” In other words, literally also means figuratively.   

And that literally drives me crazy. 

Words in our culture lack authority. I love my wife, but I also love tacos. A few minutes never really means a few minutes. The words we say and what actually happens is often disconnected. What is said and what is experienced are often not the same thing. 

Jesus’ words are different. When we read the words of Jesus, we experience something different about his words. When Jesus speaks, stuff happens. The dead get raised to life and the paralyzed stand up and walk; even the wind and the waves obey his commands. 

Jesus’ words have a different power and authority than our words have. 

In Matthew 7, the crowds listening to the Sermon on the Mount notice this same thing. They look at each other amazed, realizing, “he taught as one who had authority and not as one of their teachers of the law.” 

There’s something different about Jesus words. He doesn’t teach like their other teachers. In Matthew 8, a centurion experiences this: 

When [Jesus] had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

The centurion understands that Jesus has an authority that others do not have. His leads him to suggest, “only say the word.” The centurion is confident that if Jesus speaks, something will happen. 

This isn’t the way that most of the miracles of Jesus work. 

His miracles are always accomplished by the power of his Word, but his word often ends up connected to something else. Jesus heals a leper by his word, but also with a touch. Jesus heals a man born blind by his word, but he also chooses to use mud and saliva. Even when Jesus heals the paralytic, the paralytic is at least in the same room as Jesus. 

But in this miracle, the servant isn’t even in close proximity to Jesus. And with nothing but a word, Jesus speaks and the servant is healed. This is the power of Jesus’ words. 

When Jesus speaks, what he says is going to happen, happens. When Jesus makes a proclamation, it is so. From the first words of creation to the words spoken from the cross, Jesus’ words always do what they say. @@Jesus’ words aren’t about an intellectual ascent to a theological idea.@@ His words are about doing something for you. The end goal for Jesus isn’t to teach you all the right answers for the test, but to give you something that no one else can. 

@@Jesus words always do what they say.@@ 

Jesus declares you son or daughter and that is what you are. Jesus declares you to be “not guilty,” and that is what you become. Jesus declares you to be forgiven and you are. Jesus says, “It is finished,” and it truly is finished.  That is the power and authority in the words of Jesus - with just a word - you become righteous. 

 

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