Saturday, February 16, 2008

Using the Greek New Testament for devotions part 4: Word plays

Spotting word plays.

Today I was reading John 6.
I noticed in the Greek a word play going on from 6:27-30 based on the word ergon
This is not so noticeable in most English translations (although the NASB, does make it clear).

In v.27 the word for 'labour' or 'work' is ergazomai - a cognate verb of ergon. "Do not work..."
In v.28 they literally say, "What must we do, to be working (ergazomai) the works (ergon) of God?"
In v.29 Jesus answers "This is the work (ergon) of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."

The play on words here shows that John is making a point here with these words, and so I spent more time thinking over these than I may otherwise have done, and meditated on the following:

1) These people were seeking after Jesus (v.24, 26). We would call them "seekers" today. But Jesus points out that their seeking is wrong because they are seeking Jesus to get material blessing, they want to get fed with bread. Jesus then preaches to correct this misconception (v.27).
- this made me think of how often people will present the gospel to working class people in a way that encourages them to seek for material blessing, they may even talk about Jesus, but the emphasis is on getting a good job, and financial security (or even aspiring to be middle class).

2) In v.28 The people ask Jesus for a list of works (plural) that they can be working on (continuous tense). They seem to think that if they were given a list they would be able to fulfill it! They seem to think that they could actually please God, by doing a bunch of things.

3) Jesus answers them (v.29), but in his answer he changes 'works' (plural) to 'work' (singular). There is only one job to do, and that job is believing / trusting in Jesus Christ.

What a relief to know that we only have to put our trust in Jesus Christ our mighty Saviour who died and rose again. What a weight off our shoulders to know that we can never please God with a list of things, but that we don't have to, because instead God has provided a way, through his son, Jesus Christ.

Praise God!