Jesus didn’t leave behind a lot of words. He wrote no books or articles, left behind no letters or journals, and recorded no podcasts or videos. The only words of Jesus we have are recorded in the New Testament — and mostly in the four Gospels and Revelation.
It is estimated that there are 31,000 words of Jesus recorded in the New Testament. When we account for duplication in the Gospels, the number may only be 25,000.
The average speech is given at a pace of about 130 words per minute. At that speed, it would take just a little more than three hours to recite every recorded word of Jesus Christ.
Regardless of what you may think about Jesus, one has to recognize His rather extraordinary accomplishment of impacting the world and human history while saying so few words.
With all of the political and religious talk going on these days, it may be wise for us to follow His quiet example. There’s just too much talk out there.
Jesus didn’t waste His limited time on earth trying to explain to us, in ever-expanding detail, exactly how to live. He was well aware of the 613 laws taught to Him by his parents and the local synagogue. In fact, He was frustrated by the religious leaders who were experts in the Law but had no regard for the spirit of the Law. He didn’t mince words when calling them out. Read Matthew 23.
According to Jesus, He didn’t come to abolish the Law; He came to fulfill it. See Matthew 5:17. So instead of leaving behind a vast volume of intricate laws designed to control us, He taught foundational principles to guide us. He referred to these principles as the “rock” upon which we could securely build our lives. This is how He described the principle-driven life in Matthew 7:24-28,
Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
The words Jesus spoke were magnified and clarified by His exemplary life. He truly was the Word of God made flesh.
As we build our lives, the rain and wind of moral and ethical dilemmas will continually beat against us. Why? Because things change. Time passes, cultures change, we change, knowledge increases, and technology advances—spurring even more change. Every change introduces new dilemmas. What is right? What is wrong? What should we do? How should we live? Who decides? Consider all of the ethical dilemmas artificial intelligence is introducing right now.
The temptation is to revert to a long list of “dos and don’ts,” much like the 613 Laws. Can you recite the Ten Commandments? Imagine trying to memorize, recite, and obey 613 of them! When our lives are controlled by laws rather than guided by principles, the result is a very wordy world burdened with obligation, legalism, judgmentalism, debate — and, of course — hypocrisy. Listen, no one can consistently obey 613 laws, so if you want to look good, you’re going to have to fake it. That’s hypocrisy — and those of us in the religious world would be wise to confess we’re full of it.
When asked to choose the greatest of all 613 commands, Jesus did something astounding—He summarized the entire Law and all the words of the Prophets with one principle: love.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matt. 22:37-40
Later, Jesus replaced the second command with a new one, As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34. Yikes! He totally amplified that second command by raising the bar significantly. He sacrificed His own life for us. Now, He commands us to love others the same way — selflessly and sacrificially. That’s big transformational stuff, driven by principle, not by Law.
Listen, love makes Law unnecessary. Jesus didn’t need to say a lot because He knew we just needed to get love right. The rest would take care of itself.
The dilemma the church world is facing these days has everything to do with wanting to live by long lists of laws rather than the solid-rock principle of love. The result is nauseating wordiness, harsh noise, and ugly division. To the world, we sound like what Paul described in his introduction to the topic of love in I Corinthians 13,
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
In a world full of ever-emerging ethical dilemmas and harsh religious noise, the solid-rock principle of love gives us the clarity we need to live in simplicity, quiet, and peace. Thank you, Jesus, for showing us the way. Now, Church, let’s walk in it.