|Read Matthew 9:1-8, Mark
4:35-41 and 5:21-43. "He got up, rebuked the wind and said to
the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to the disciples, 'Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?'
They were terrified and asked each other, 'Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey
him!'" (Mark 4:39-41).
"He took her
by the hand and said to her, 'Talitha koum!' (which means, 'Little girl, I say to
you, get up!') Immediately the girl stood up and walked around." (Mark 5:41-42)
Jesus said:"Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your
hearts? Which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?
But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins
. . .' Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go
home.' And the man got up and went home." (Matt 9:4-7)
Performative language is language that actually accomplishes the
thing it claims. A minister or justice of the peace says, "I now pronounce you
husband and wife." At the moments these words are said, the marriage actually
takes place. In the same way, when a courtroom judge says, " I now pronounce
you guilty," in the law's eyes, the person is considered guilty. Of course,
such language is somewhat dependent upon socially constructed rules. As a society,
we agree to be governed by the rule of law, and part of that agreement is to codes
surrounding marriages and courts. This doesn't necessarily guarantee that every
performative claim is valid. The person, after all, might be falsely charged and
When Christ spoke, things happened. He silenced threatening
weather; he raised the dead; he healed paralytics; he forgave sins. His was the ultimate
in performative language. He spoke, and it was so. The elements of the
universe, and all the beings in it, were at his beck and call. It's reassuring,
then, to observe the character of his actions -- deeds of mercy and
deliverance. He could do these things because he possessed power. But he never
used this power to promote or benefit himself. No space existed between his words
and his deeds.
Only God has an absolute claim to authority. All other
authority is borrowed. When we say something is true, we can never claim to have the
same kind of essential sanction. We can speak "in Jesus' name," and we can
base our convictions on scripture; however, we can never claim to speak with the same
assurance that God can. It is incumbent upon us to constantly search our writing,
examining it closely to see if what we have asserted has legitimate, and not usurped,
authority behind it.
Let us be sure that we do so.