Jesus the Word Artist
Jesus didn't shy away from giving people mind cramps.
Jesus wasn't afraid of being misunderstood.
Jesus lived in our reality, yet spoke from a different realm altogether; a realm that deepened the meanings of ordinary words.
Jesus was a masterful word artist. He was a brilliant conversationalist who could inject an ordinary term with mind-boggling or mind-cramping power.
With Nicodemas in John 3 it was the phrase "born again." Nicodemas does a mental double-take and asks dumbfoundedly "How...?" With the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, it was the term "water." With baffled curiosity the woman asked for the living water but wasn't sure Jesus could give it to her since he had nothing with which to draw that water.
Back in John 2 Jesus used the word "temple" with his new definition to the bewilderment of some very upset Jewish authorities.
Why do we evangelicals have this slavish penchant to be correctly understood and to make sure the minds of our listeners are always at ease? Why don't we dare to speak ordinary words filled with other world, kingdom of God, meaning? Why is Webster's (or whatever) dictionary our source for definitions and not the creative Jesus and his new world of meanings?
I anticipate the objection: But does this not make language too slippery? Are we going to fill a word with whatever meaning we want? To these questions I simply ask, Did Jesus do that? He was creative, not willy-nilly.
Jesus was an intriguing artist, not a ponderous exegete. He believed in a deeper, truer realm; lived from it and invited others into it. He used mind-cramping words at times to do it. His vocabulary while current and earthy nevertheless had a "...and beyond" dimension.
Our house church, exploring and playing with Jesus' word artistry, experimented with putting kingdom definitions into ordinary words. It was our attempt at exploring another way "to be like Jesus." We felt like amateurs. Like kids. Like we were starting from scratch. Born again.