The Power of the Word – Part 1

Introduction

We will think briefly about the power of our Lord’s word in the distant past, in the present and in the future.

The power of our Lord’s word - past, present and future.

i. The power of His word in creation

The Apostle John assures us that, ‘All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing [“no, not one; not even one”]1 made that was made’2 ‘from the highest angel to the meanest worm’.3

And the Lord Jesus accomplished it all by His word. As it is written, ‘By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth … For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast’.4 Out of nothing, that is, the universe was formed and was confirmed in existence by the power of His word.

At His voice creation sprang at once to sight,
all the angel faces all the hosts of light,
thrones and dominations, stars upon their way,
all the heavenly orders in their great array.

[C. M. NOEL]

But not only was our Lord Jesus the agent of creation, He also sustains the universe which He made.

ii. The power of His word in providence

We read that the Lord Jesus upholds ‘all things by the word of his power’.5

His providential government both

  1. maintains and sustains the vast universe so that it does not sink into anarchy or into nothing6 and, also,
  2. carries it on to its destined end.7But not only was the power of His word exercised in creation in the distant past, not only is the power of His word exercised in providence in the present, but the power of His word will also be exercised in judgement on His foes in the future.

iii. The power of His word in judgement

When the mighty Warrior-King comes out of heaven to ‘judge and make war [in righteousness] … out of his mouth … [proceeds] a sharp sword, that with it he … [might strike] the nations’.8Then, as it is written, ‘he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked’.9

At that time, the armies which gather ‘to make war against him’10 will find to their cost that His word carries a destructive power infinitely greater than that of any weapon conceived by man.

Having surveyed, briefly, the power of the Lord’s word in the distant past, in the present and in the future, let us focus on the irresistible power of our Lord’s word ‘in the days of his flesh’,11during that short period when ‘He was in the world’.12

The irresistible power of our Lord’s word - during His life on earth.

i. Disease

Note two examples from Dr Luke’s case book.

a) Ask Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. He (Jesus) rose up and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s wife’s mother was in the grip of13 a major fever, and they appealed to Him for her. And He stood over her and rebuked14 15 the fever, and it left her. And at once she arose and served them.16

One commentator claims, ‘Every word is a medical term. “In the grip of” is the medical Greek for someone definitely laid up with an illness. The Greek medical writers divided fevers into two classes: major and minor. Dr Luke knew just how to describe this illness’.17

The word ‘rebuked’ is telling us that our Lord’s word was sufficient to effect the cure. And I note that, following our Lord’s rebuke of the fever and its consequent departure, it was ‘at once’ (‘all of a sudden’18) that Peter’s motherin- law’s strength returned and ‘she arose and served them’.

This particular detail is mentioned only by Luke, who, as a doctor,19would have known better than any that a ‘major’ fever indicated a most exhausting illness, which would normally be followed by a long period of convalescence accompanied by great physical weakness. But not in this case!

b) Ask Bartimaeus. It happened, as He was coming near Jericho, that a certain blind man20 sat by the road begging.21

What a wonder, that our Lord stopped and ‘stood still’ for the healing of a blind man, even though He was then pacing His way to Jerusalem, striding ahead of His disciples.22

It was around that time that He expounded in more detail than previously to His disciples what experiences awaited Him at Jerusalem, where He would be betrayed, condemned, scourged, spat on and killed.23

And you and I know now, as He did then, that this was, indeed, the very reason He had come into the world -‘to give his life a ransom for many’.24

And yet, although on the way to the cross to accomplish ‘eternal salvation’,25 such is the Saviour’s compassion that He stopped to speak healing to one blind beggar! ‘Receive your sight’, He said, ‘And immediately he received his sight’!26It would certainly be difficult to miss that the effect of the Great Physician’s powerful word was both instantaneous and complete. But, if disease was no match for the power of His word, neither was distance.

ii. Distance

Consider two distinguished individuals from the city of Capernaum - one of whom was deeply concerned about a servant who was ‘at the point of death’27 and one of whom was deeply concerned about a son who was ‘at the point of death’.28

a) Ask the centurion of Capernaum. Drawing on the accounts in Matthew chapter 8 and Luke chapter 7,29 we note that the centurion argued that his own authority was delegated … that it was derived ultimately from Caesar himself. Consequently, when the centurion spoke (in his office as a Roman centurion, of course, not when speaking to his wife. Perish the thought) he spoke with the emperor’s full authority, and his command was therefore obeyed. Anyone who disobeyed his word would be defying, not so much him as Caesar. And that was not a good idea!

The centurion was expressing his faith that Jesus was vested with the authority of God Himself and that, to heal his servant, He, the Great Physician, had no need to pay a home visit to the patient. He needed to ‘speak the word only‘!

The Lord didn’t need to send any medication. Nor did He need to send one of His disciples with the equivalent (i) of Elisha’s staff, to lay it on the face of the sick lad30 or (ii) of Paul’s handkerchiefs or aprons to heal him.31He needed ‘to speak the word only’.

And events proved that the centurion was right. Without completing His journey32 and without entering the centurion’s house, Jesus spoke the word (‘as you have believed, so let it be done for you’) and the centurion’s servant was healed ‘that same hour’.33

b) Ask the nobleman of Capernaum. When Jesus ‘came again’ to Cana, He was met by a ‘nobleman’ (a ‘royal official’34) whose home was in Capernaum. The man had undertaken the arduous journey to Cana to ask Jesus to accompany him to Capernaum and there heal his sick son. The case was urgent - his boy was at death’s door.

Clearly, the man took it for granted that Jesus’ presence was necessary to perform a cure. Jesus’ response must, therefore, have taken him by complete surprise. Because the Lord matched the official’s request, ‘Come down before my child dies’, with His, ‘Go your way; your son lives’.35

I observe that Jesus did not say, ‘your son will live’. This was no mere prophecy on Jesus’ part that the man’s boy was going to recover; it was a longdistance miracle, performed by His spoken word. And it certainly was a long distance. The official knew this very well; he had just travelled some twenty-five miles on the road which stretched from Cana to Capernaum!36

The man had nothing but Jesus’ bare word. But that was enough. ‘He went his way’, retracing his steps down the road which led home. But the following day, before he reached his home, the official was met by his servants. On enquiry, he discovered that his son’s fever had left him the very same hour that Jesus had announced that his son lived.

What a discovery! The cure had been instantaneous and that (if I may put it this way) the Lord’s word had shot faster than lightning those many miles to heal his dying son, that, in the words of one commentator, ‘Jesus spoke the healing word in Cana and the boy was cured at Capernaum’.37

Yes, indeed, both cases proved distance to be no more a match for the power of Jesus’ word than disease:38

  1. Go your way‘, the Lord Jesus said to the centurion … ‘and his servant was healed that same hour‘.39
  2. Go your way‘, He said to the royal official … and the official received confirmation from his servants the following day that his son was healed ‘at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives”’.40

But, as we shall see in the next article, if disease and distance were no match for the power of His word, neither were demons.

Endnotes

1

A. Plummer, The Gospel according to St. John (Cambridge Greek Testament), Cambridge University Press, pg. 65.

2

John 1. 3 ESV.

3

Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Zondervan.

4

Ps. 33. 6, 9.

5

Heb. 1. 3. ‘This is an active and powerful word which upholds the universe’, Edward W. Fudge, Our Man in Heaven: An exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, CEI, pg. 7.

6

Compare the words of the Apostle Paul, ‘in Him all things consist’, Col. 1. 17 NKJV.

7

‘He upholds the universe not like Atlas supporting a dead weight on his shoulders, but as one who carries all things forward on their appointed course’, F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), Eerdmans, pg. 6.

8

Rev. 19. 11, 15; cp. ‘the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of Him who was sitting on the horse’, Rev. 19. 21 ESV.

9

Isa. 11. 4. Compare the words of Paul, ‘the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord … [shall] consume with the breath of His mouth’, 2 Thess. 2. 8 NKJV.

10

Rev. 19. 19.

11

Heb. 5. 7.

12

John 1. 10.

13

‘In the grip of’ is the rendering of The New Jerusalem Bible. The verb (sunego) is used in Luke chapter 19 verse 43 to mean ‘to hem in’ and in Luke chapter 22 verse 63 to mean ‘to hold [prisoner]’.

14

‘That she “was racked” [en sunechomeno] … by this fever, which literally means that she “was held fast”, suggests that Luke understands the fever to be a force that had taken her captive. Given Jewish understanding of the disease, a great fever requires a great feat to vanquish it. Jesus “rebuked” it and forces it to “release” its hold of her. This incident illustrates the theme of Jesus’ release of the captives (Luke 4. 18)’, David E. Garland, Luke (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament), Zondervan, comments on Luke 4. 38, 39.

15

Just as He later ‘rebuked the winds and the sea’, Matt. 8. 26.

16

Luke 4. 38, 39.

17

William Barclay, Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Luke, St. Andrews Press, pg. 48.

18

This is not the usual word translated ‘immediately’ (eutheos) in the New Testament, where it occurs eighty times. Indeed, the word used by Luke here (parachrema) is found only twice in the entire New Testament outside of Luke’s writings; namely, in Matthew chapter 21 verses 19 and 20.

19

Col. 4. 14.

20

The blind man’s name was Bartimaeus, Mark 10. 46. Matthew informs us that there were, in fact, two beggars; clearly, Bartimaeus was the more prominent of the two.

21

Luke 18. 35-43.

22

Mark 10. 32; the account of the healing of Bartimaeus follows soon after, Mark 10. 46-52.

23

Mark 10. 32b-34.

24

Mark 10. 45.

25

Heb. 5. 9; cf. ‘eternal redemption’, Heb. 5. 9.

26

Luke 18. 42, 43 NKJV.

27

‘A centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death’, Luke 7. 2 ESV.

28

‘He went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death’, John 4. 47 NKJV.

29

Luke tells us that the centurion approached Jesus through his Jewish friends; Matthew omits this detail and represents him as approaching Jesus directly. Commenting on the role played by the friends of the centurion in Luke’s narrative, one writer has suggested, ‘Perhaps we can discern something of the differing purposes of the Evangelists in their treatment of the messengers. Matthew was concerned primarily with the centurion’s faith and nationality; to him the messengers were irrelevant, even a distraction. But Luke was interested in the man’s character and specifically in his humility; to him the messengers were a vital part of the story’, Leon Morris, Luke (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), Tyndale, pg. 151.

30

See 2 Kgs. 4. 29.

31

See Acts 19. 12.

32

‘He was now not far from the house’, Luke 7. 6.

33

Matt. 8. 13 NKJV.

34

Quite likely, the man was one of Herod Antipas’s court officials. Herod Antipas ‘was tetrarch of Galilee from 4 BC to 39 AD and not properly a “king” at all; but he was popularly considered one (Matt. 14. 9; Mark 6. 14)’, D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John (Pillar New Testament Commentary), Eerdmans, pg. 238.

35

‘Jesus’ reply … is admirably glossed by Theodore of Mopsuestia (350-428 AD) as, “It is not necessary for me to come down; for me, it is sufficient that I should simply speak”’, J. F. Mchugh, John 1-4 (International Critical Commentary), T and T Clark, pg. 320.

36

Cana in Galilee ‘is approximately 25 miles = 40 km distant from Capernaum, by a road which climbs from more than 600 feet (212 metres) below sea level to some 750 feet (250 metres) above it’, J. F. Mchugh, op. cit., pg. 318.

37

Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), Eerdmans, pg. 288.

38

Compare the case of the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman, from whom the Lord expelled a demon when He was not present; Matt. 15. 21-28; Mark 7. 24-30. See especially, ‘she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone’, Mark 7. 30 ESV, and ‘her daughter was made whole from that very hour’, Matt. 15. 28 NKJV.

39

Matt. 8. 13 NKJV.

40

John 4. 52, 53 NKJV.

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