Jesus Pulls a Webster

The 260 Journey
The 260 Journey
Jesus Pulls a Webster

Day 31

Today’s Reading: Mark 3

When you want to know the definition of a word, you look in the one trusted place that settles all doubt—the dictionary. When you think of the dictionary, you think of one name—Webster. But do you know who this Webster is?

Noah Webster was a devout Christian. His word speller was grounded in Scripture, and his first lesson began, “Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor for your body, what ye shall put on; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.”

His 1828 American dictionary contained the greatest number of Biblical definitions given in any reference volume. Webster considered education “useless without the Bible.” He claimed to have learned twenty different languages in finding definitions for which a particular word was used. From the preface to the 1828 edition of Webster’s American Dictionary of the English language:

In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed. No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.

In fact, Noah Webster wrote the first paraphrase of the Bible called the common Bible in 1833. Webster molded the King James Version to correct grammar, replaced words that were no longer used, and did away with words and phrases that could be seen as offensive.

When you are looking up a word, read the whole definition. You may just stumble into something amazing about the what it means and where it came from.

That happened to me. Noah Webster redefined the word enthusiasm for me. Here is his second definition for the word: “belief in special revelations from the Holy Spirit.” The noun enthusiasm comes from the Greek word enthousiasmos, from enthous, meaning “possessed by a God, inspired.”

The famous 1828 version said: “special divine communications from the Supreme Being, or familiar intercourse with him.”

Special revelations from the Holy Spirit!

Seriously? That’s incredible.

That redefined enthusiasm for how I think about the word. I get enthusiastic to preach, to go to church, to be a dad and a husband. I get inspired by God and receive special communications from Him to do these things.

Redefinitions were needed when Jesus came to earth. Jesus went all Noah Webster from the outset of His ministry and brought an adjustment to a very important concept in today’s reading of Mark 3.

In Mark 3:32, a crowd was sitting around Him. They told Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.”

Here are the words Jesus wanted to redefine: “Answering them, He said, “Who are My mother and my brothers?” Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers!” (verses 33-34).

Here comes the redefinition: “For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother” (verse 35).

Did you see how He redefined terms?

“Who is My mother?” And, “Who is my brother?”

When Jesus came, He redefined things by putting them in their true light. He did that on the sermon on the mount when He redefined adultery. It’s not just in the bed but in the head (see Matthew 5:27-28).

Jesus asks these questions: Who is my real family? Who is related to me?

We hear all the time that blood is thicker than water. But Jesus took it even further by saying that spirit is thicker than blood.

Jesus redefined blood relationships for us. He said the ones whom we are closest to are not the ones who have the same father and mother but the ones who “do the will of God.”

Remember this important thing: whose definition really counts?

In Renaissance, Os Guinness wrote something that made me think redefinitions and how the crowd wants us to be stuck and not look up how Jesus defines something: “For the followers of Jesus, the voice of the people must never be taken as the voice of God.”

We live under the pressure that numbers (the crowd) are truth and they tell the truth and they make the truth. And so we give numbers and majority huge value. We are counting opinions instead of weighing them.

It tells you externals but never the heart of something. They can tell you what men spend on Valentine’s Day cards but never if he loves his wife as Christ loves the church.

They can tell you about church membership and frequency of attendance but never gauge those who are on fire in their love for God.

One hundred million tweets and “likes” still never add up to truth, wisdom, or what is right and good. The bandwagon is replacing the Bible—popularity rather than principle—horizontal pressure over vertical authority.

“Thus says the Lord” should always trump 51 percent. That’s something to get enthusiastic about. That’s something to redefine. That’s what Jesus did.