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God’s Human Speech

God’s Human Speech

John 20:19-23

by Barbara Bater

We tend to think of language as the essential element of com­munication, but it’s not . Eye movement, tone of voice, physical gestures, volume, space, and time play a larger part in the mean­ing we take from other people’s messages to us and the ways our conversations are heard and interpreted by others.

Imagine the disciples huddled behind a door that has been “locked for fear of the Jews.” They apparently don’t believe what Mary Magdalene has told them about Jesus being raised from the dead-perhaps because of the speaker herself. Jesus comes  to them with a powerful series of nonverbal and verbal messages that revive them. First, he moves through solid matter and open space to stand among them.

Second, he speaks to them with four simple  words, “Peace be with you.” His third message is again nonverbal as Jesus offers his hands and side to them to see. In the fourth message Jesus repeats the earlier verbal blessing, but this time he adds the rhetorical crux: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

The crucial nonverbal message occurs when Jesus breathes on the disciples, giving them the experience of the ruach or breath of God . This nonverbal essence of life receives added emphasis when Jesus speaks these words to the disciples: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” It starts at that moment to empower them to become a new community, offering the forgiveness of sins that Jesus alone could offer prior to his death.

SUGGESTION FOR MEDITATION:

Think about a time when some­ one who has been a God-connection for you offered a longed­ for blessing. Breathe in God’s holy and life-giving presence.