Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.
In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are —the Holy One of God!”
“Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.
All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.
If you’ve been following along, you’re probably starting to figure out that we’re walking through the book of Luke. That’s because I’m reflecting on the gospel readings from The Book of Common Prayer’s Daily Office, Year Two. The Daily Office is a great way to have some guided Scripture reading. It gives you a morning psalm, an evening psalm, an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, and a Gospel reading. If you’re looking for a way to easily start reading the Bible with some direction, then I highly recommend the Daily Office (currently we are in Year Two, next year is Year One again).
This is the first healing that we bump into in Luke. Jesus drives out an “impure spirit.” I mean that really ought to be the thing that catches my attention right? I’m sure I could make some sort of over spiritualized statement about the age that we live and how we all need to be driving out impure spirits. Or, maybe I could go all fundamentalist and talk about the need to rid ourselves of the impure spirit that is alcohol.
Even though I haven’t done a deep dive into the passage and I’m only about half way through my first cuppa, I’m confident those are not the point of the story.
What grabbed my attention in this passage was the repeated idea in the beginning and at the end, “They were amazed because his words had authority and power.”
At the beginning when Jesus was teaching they were amazed that his words had authority.
At the end when Jesus had driven out the impure spirit they were amazed that his words had authority and power.
Friends, our words matter.
There was a great little book by Larry Crabb called Encouragement and it discusses the power that our words have to build others up and conversely to tear others down.
In James we read, “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
Over the course of my life I have had to learn over and over again the power of words. We can speak life or death.
You know it’s true.
You know because otherwise you wouldn’t talk behind someone’s back.
You know because otherwise you wouldn’t talk in hushed whispers.
You know because otherwise you wouldn’t say, “Just between you and I…”
When we try to pretend that words don’t matter we are lying to ourselves.
I distinctly remember times when words have crushed me.
I also remember times when words have given me life.
Words might be the single greatest power that we have at our disposal. We might not think that we have a voice that matters. But, our voice matters to someone. It always does. Words give shape to ideas and ideas have impact far beyond our reach.
The words we use and how we use them can open up conversation or shut it down.
The words we use and how we use them can create loving community or painful abuse.
The words we use and how we use them can give life or cause death.
Why are words so powerful? I’m not an expert in the psychology or neurology but I think it’s because words get lodged into our brains and create connections for us. We can remember the mean, hurtful, nasty thing someone said to us long after the fact. The kind, good, loving thing someone says disappears quickly. Why? Why is that?
I don’t know why that is but, what it does mean is that I want to be someone who is intentionally seeking to speak words of life to those in my sphere of influence. I want to intentionally speak kind, good, loving words to folks.
Our words matter.
It’s like the fire analogy from James. Our words can spark a forest fire that causes untold damage. Our words can also spark a beautiful bonfire that is display of love and life.
How will you use your words today?