Jesus Spoke as If Death Couldn’t Touch His Words (Because It Couldn’t)

Jesus understood the power of God’s word and the power of His own words. Like His Father, He forgave sins and spoke perfect words. He had authority over death even before he died.

The crowds recognized the authority with which He spoke. His disciples also discerned something about the way He spoke that was different. In John 6:68, Peter said to Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Jesus didn’t just talk about eternal life; there was something eternal about His words.

Imagine that I were to promise to take you to lunch tomorrow. But tomorrow comes and you don’t hear from me. The next day I tell you I was busy and forgot. You may be upset. You may blame me for being careless with my words. That’s understandable. People shouldn’t make promises that they don’t keep.

But suppose that I didn’t take you to lunch because I unexpectedly died in my sleep. You would not blame me for breaking my promise. It goes without saying that, in the event of death, I will not be able to take you out to lunch.

When we speak, it is taken for granted that death can intervene and render our words powerless. It was not so with Jesus. He spoke as if death could not touch His words. He did not accept the authority of death over His own words, or over God’s creation.

Death is an invader into creation. It does not naturally belong on earth. But because it is so pervasive, we tend to think of it as a natural part of living. When someone dies in old age and free of disease we say “he died of natural causes.” But death is not natural. It may be less polite but more accurate to say “he died of sin.” Death is consistent and it has been around for a long time. But it nevertheless is a usurper. Jesus did not recognize death’s authority as legitimate.

When the southern states of America seceded from the Union, they established their own authority as the Confederate States of America. President Lincoln did not recognize their authority as legitimate. He prosecuted the war on the premise that the Confederate government had no rightful claim on the southern states. However, he had trouble finding a general who would consistently operate from that same point of view.

In July of 1863, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the Union army won a decisive battle. Union General George Meade pursued the defeated Confederate soldiers as they fled from Pennsylvania.

Lincoln was disappointed because he thought that if Meade had pursued them more aggressively and overtaken them, the war could have been won. He was especially frustrated when he learned that General Meade exhorted his men with these words: “Our task is not yet accomplished, and the commanding general looks to the army for greater efforts to drive from our soil every vestige of the presence of the invader.”

“Drive the invader from our soil?!” Lincoln cried, “The whole country is our soil!”[1]

General Meade’s words betrayed his attitude toward the Confederate government. As long as the soldiers of the Confederate army were in the south, he considered them to be on their own territory. But from Lincoln’s perspective they had no legitimate claim to any territory.

Likewise, Jesus’ attitude toward death was that it had no place on God’s earth. It is true what we sing every year at Christmas time: “let earth receive her king, He has come to make his blessings known as far as the curse is found.” Death is His enemy and he will not relent until it is removed from His earth.

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This is an excerpt from The Natural Holiness of Jesus

[1] James M. McPherson, Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief, The Penguin Press, 2008, p.182