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To preach, prepare, participate

Mid-Week Meditation

The chief priests and the scribes were seeking to destroy him but they did not find anything they could do for all the people were hanging on his words (Luke 19:47,48)

We will do a grammatical analysis of the above verse and then I will bring an important application thought for us. The religious leaders sought to destroy Jesus but they couldn’t because people were hanging on his words. How do people hang on to the words of someone? The Greek verb “exekremato” translated as ‘hanging’ in the ESV and “hung” in NIV is a word that appears only here in the New Testament. This is a compound verb which means a verbal stem attached to a preposition to form the meaning. The preposition part in the Greek verb has both the ideas of ‘out from’ and ‘to’. So the meaning of the phrase ‘hanging on his words’ is that ‘out from’ one’s own thoughts and keenly focused ‘to’ another person’s thoughts and ideas because you are totally captivated by that person. The emphasis is on a kind of listening in which you are focused on every word that comes out of the speaker. Almost all English versions miss out on an important Greek word in the above verse in their translations except for KJV which tries to accommodate the word ‘akouo’ which means ‘listening’. So the meaning of the phrase "hanging on his words" could be stated as 'all the people were out from their own thoughts and focused on to his words, keenly listening'.

Also, I prefer the NIV’s translation “hung” to ESV’s translation “were hanging”. The aorist tense of the verb “exekremato” is better translated as ‘hung’ and not ‘were hanging’.Moreover, the imperfect tense of the verb 'ezetoun' translated as "were seeking" used in the first part of the verse with the Chief priests and scribes means that they were ‘continuously’ involved in the effort to find some way to destroy Jesus but they couldn’t do so because all the people “hung” on to the words of Jesus, listening. The act of religious leaders seeking ways to destroy Jesus was ‘continuous’ but the act of the people which is being focused on the words of Jesus was ‘constative’, which means it was a reality that they were just focused on the words of Jesus. Thus the contrast is between the ‘continuous’ and the ‘constative’ which got lost in the translation of ESV. In fact, the beauty of this verse is lost in almost all English versions because of the nature of Greek grammar which cannot be captured fully in the English translations.

Let me now come to the application of this grammatical analysis. We live in a world that is continuously seeking to destroy Jesus in many ways. Both the religious world and the secular world are involved in finding ways to destroy Jesus. The solution is not that we indeed turn and destroy those who try to destroy Jesus for we cannot succeed in doing so. However, the more we hang on to the words of Jesus, follow his ways, and imitate his life then the destroyers of Jesus will fail in their attempts. The world’s nature is that it ‘continuously’ seeks to destroy Jesus but we ought to be ‘constative’ in our focus on the words and instructions of Jesus Christ following them and living by them daily. That’s the only way to put the world to shame. We are called not to hang swords around us but to hang on to the words of Jesus. Our Lord is indestructible when His people are the people of His words in every way.


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