Where does the comma belong?

For the last couple of weeks, our church has hosted this year’s Lenten soup dinner and worship. There have been 60+ people that have attended each week, mostly Lutherans and Methodists—there has to be a joke in there somewhere.  We’re hoping this is a time where our community churches can come together.

Last night, for dinner, the love of my life made look like a renowned chef. Everyone loved the chicken soup I made that she told me how to make (Thanks, Boo!).

She didn’t, however, help me with worship. During our worship time, I read Jesus’ words from the cross, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise,” (Luke 23:43) and told the congregation about a discussion that circles that verse. You may be shocked to learn that Christian folk don’t always agree about Bible stuff.

As far as the promise Jesus made to a hanging criminal, the conversation is about where exactly one of the commas belong in that sentence. Either the comma goes after the word ‘you’ and reads, “Truly I say to you (COMMA) today you will be with me in Paradise,” or the comma goes after the word ‘today’ and reads, “Truly I say to you today (COMMA) you will be with me in Paradise.”

See the difference?

Commas can be important

In other words, Jesus is either telling the criminal something specific about that day, or on that day Jesus is telling the criminal something specific. I never took biblical Greek. So, that choice is up to you. Of course, I understand the implications of the placement of the comma when it comes to the topics of the afterlife and what happens to us when we die. But I also know Christians can just like to argue about commas.

There were a couple of points I wanted to make about that and one more thing I wish I would have said. The final thought was most important. That is, I prefer to focus more on Jesus’ other words, “Truly I say to you…” What Jesus really told him was, “AMEN!” Jesus had been given all power. So, if he has something to say, I would rather focus my faith on that. The hanging soul was given the promise that Christ’s presence would be with him in Paradise. And, as far as we can tell, that was enough for him.

My hope is that God’s presence with us today is enough. It was something meaningful for the man hanging next to Jesus. What about you?

Finally, had I been a little braver, I would have mentioned this next thought. There is a world hurting around us. There are people in pain. Families are falling apart. People are coping with addiction, struggling for the daily bread we pray for and fighting through chronic sickness. I guarantee you there is someone around you that prays for an inkling of hope. And if, as the body of Christ, the most invigorated, inspired and convicted we can be centers around our comma talk, then I have a suggestion where exactly you can put that comma.

Stay blessed…john

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