There are some words or phrases that just don’t go together. “Jumbo Shrimp,” “New Antiques,” “kind of pregnant,” or “sort of married” are some that come to my mind. Other phrases can become part of our standard English, like “virtual reality” or “Icy Hot.” In the English language, we call them “oxymorons,” a funny sounding word in and of itself. That word has a Greek origin, and could be translated as “pointedly foolish” and refers to a statement that makes a self-contradiction.
We all slip up in our speech at times, but the Bible often uses these pointed phrases to drive home a point. The Bible often takes words that don’t go together, and puts them together to grab our attention and help us see the point more clearly. For example, Paul writes “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live” in Galatians 2:20. The Gospels tell of the “Virgin birth” and Jesus says that “the first shall be last.” All of these phrases, even when brought into English, catch our ear and make us stop and examine them more closely to see just what is being claimed.
Another of these phrases can be found in the Gospel of Matthew. In Matthew 9, a synagogue official comes to Jesus because his daughter has passed away. This man's life has been interrupted in the worst possible way. Somehow, he heard of this man Jesus who was teaching, healing, and performing all sorts of miracles. In desperation, he comes to him and pours out his heart.
"While He was saying these things to them, a synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, 'My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.'" (Matthew 9:18)
As he pours out his heart, he puts together two words that should never go together. “My daughter has died, but…” Those last two words don't fit together. Death is always the final word in any situation. As long as there is no death, there is still hope for a recovery, for a miracle, for a healing. But death is the end of the sentence. Death is a period. There is no hope after death. But, for this synagogue official, there is.
He believed that with Christ, death was no longer the end. Those words that didn’t belong together could now live in harmony because of this man Jesus. He did things that should not be done, things that defied nature and all common sense. He put a comma where there had only been a period before. Death was not the end of hope when Christ was there.
Christ came to her house and brought her back to life. A period was now just a comma, a pause, a dark night before the sun rose in the morning. As far as we know, this was just a temporary pause. She went on, lived her life, and died again someday. After all, physical death still comes for all of us.
If we are in Christ, though, physical death is not the end. If we are in Christ, our fellowship may end with our loved ones, but death marks the beginning of an eternity of fellowship with Jesus. Even for those that are left behind after the death of a loved one, we know that it is only a temporary parting if they are in the Lord. We will see them again on the other side of the river. Our parting is not eternal, but temporary.
Of all the words that don't go together in the Bible, this is the one that gets everyone’s attention. We all know that death comes for all of us one day, and that there is no escape. There is no way to avoid death, of course, but praise God that through Christ Jesus, there is only a comma there and not a period. Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
This is the good news of the gospel. Words that didn’t make sense together make sense now because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Christ puts a comma where the world tells us to put a period. Because of our new life in Christ, we know that even though trials come, we can make it through. Even the worst the world can offer cannot stand before the power of a risen Christ.