The new language(s) of Jesus
by Stephan Joubert
Jesus walked and talked differently. As a matter of fact, his first language preceded syntax. More than often Jesus spoke without grammatical speech. The deepest meanings that he shared about God and others were embedded in “somatic” language. His strange birth and horrific death on the cross spoke loud and clear without any grammatical interference. His body spoke.
We need verbal sounds to make ourselves known. Our spoken language connects us with others, but we are not mere creatures of our verbal repertoires. When we grasp that we must also embody our grammatical sounds (and feel our thinking!), we’ll begin to understand Jesus in fresh ways. From non-verbal to verbal — this is how we could experience and articulate Jesus’ embodiment of God’s kingdom from a different perspective.
Jesus was not the bearer of new forms of divine complexity, reason, logic, formulas, theories, paradigms, rules, laws, or dogmas. He didn’t need complex grammatical speech because he deliberately chose not to follow the routes of the Greek and Roman philosophers with their persuasive literary tools and formal rhetoric. Neither did he follow the rules and laws of the Pharisees. Jesus’ language entailed so more than grammatical sounds. He talked when he walked. Actually, the most powerful form of divine speech was Jesus’ presence. He was a living speech act.
Jesus’ words didn’t define him entirely. His presence and the direction of his life did. He embodied a new story so encapsulating that it changed the very texture of the world forever. His timely story became timeless. Its simplicity is its success. No mimicry or mediocrity here; Jesus became the new syllabus, the text, the pen, as well as the hand that held it. He made this exclusive new way of life before God freely available through faith. This he did at the cross where he rebuilt the bridge to his Father’s house singlehandedly. No wonder the cross is the loudest form of non-grammatical language ever heard.