Summary: Words matter. Words communicate. As a master teacher Jesus used words and literary devices to enhance his teaching with great power and insight. He often used 'hyperbole.'
The Gospel of Luke-Pt.18: “Love who? My Enemies!”
I walked through hell this week. My personal world was on fire and everyone unloaded their problems on me. I ended the week with the weight of the world upon my shoulders.
Let me ask you, ‘What kind of week did I have?’ Yes, you would be correct if you said things like, it was difficult, demanding, burdensome, all those.
Now, what if I said; ‘I experienced a little bit of heaven this week. In my quiet times the angels sang and everyone I met had a volume of encouragements to give me. I ended the week walking on clouds.
Let me ask you again, ‘What kind of week did I have?’ Joyful, blessed, up-lifting. Yes, all those would be true.
Was anyone’s first thoughts, ‘He’s lying. No one could have such a bad week or good week?’Probably not.
The truth is I had a very normal week. I used these examples to demonstrate a very important interpretive principal to understand the Bible. That principle is found in the language, the words used to describe events. In describing my week I used hyperbole or “rhetorical overstatement, or positive exaggeration.” I used certain words to catch your attention or shock you so you would better grasp my meaning. “In the case of hyperbole this is exactly the case, since exaggeration often shocks the recipients, alerts them to the importance of the message and invites them to take it more seriously and act accordingly.”
It is not lying if I was communicating the truth of a hard or blessed week. But the hyperbole brought emphasis and color and a drama that engaged you and prepared you for the worst or the best explanation.
It is a perfectly acceptable use of language and one that’s common. “The whole world is upset with that official who failed to call a penalty in the Saints-Rams playoff game!” You understand that I mean a lot of people, but not the whole world.That’s hyperbole.
One of the first principles of proper interpretation of Scripture is to determine what the genre is. There are many types of literary methods in the Bible; Narrative, Poetry, Apocalyptic, Parable, Prophetic, Proverb, etc. Within each of these different genre there are differing rhetorical devises or figures of speech of which one is hyperbole. Hyperbole is an exaggeration used to produce strong feelings and strong impressions but not to be taken literally.
I literally did not walk through hell, or carry the weight of the world, and not everyone encouraged me with volumes, nor did I hear angels singing or walk on a cloud. But by using hyperbolic language you understood that this was a far different week than a normal week.
Jesus often resorted to extreme exaggeration in order to drive home his points and to get his hearers to ask questions and see their world from a new perspective.
In perhaps the hardest teaching of the New Testament, Jesus lays out what the Kingdom Practices look like. Last we looked at Kingdom Promises. Today, we look at perhaps the most radical teaching in the Counter-cultural content of this Sermon on the plain or Sermon on the Mount. Radical, and the seemingly most unreasonable command in the New Testament. In fact, it seems impossible. It goes against the very fiber of our being.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
“You have heard it said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies…”
ON this verse in Matthew, John MacArthur writes;
“He (Jesus) is saying, “Your tradition tells you,” verse 43, “love your neighbor and hate your enemies.” That’s what you’ve learned. You have learned that there is a justification for hatred. You’ve learned that there is a place for vilification, and animosity, and bitterness, and revenge, and resentment. You’ve been told that your pride is justified and your prejudice is allowable. You’ve been told that there are some people you well should hate.”
Then Jesus undercuts all that thinking and says,
“But I tell you: Love your enemies…”
Jesus said a number of very hard things, so hard in fact that after teaching that He was the bread of life in Jn.6:66 it reads;
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”