[VIDEO: The Most Important Comma in Human History]
This week celebrates National Grammar Day, so before you light your punctuation fireworks or fire up a grill to cook those exclamation dogs, let’s take a few minutes to consider what may be the most significant use of grammar in human history—a single comma in the English Bible.
It was common in the days of Jesus for teachers to read from scrolls containing the scriptures we now call the Old Testament. This was a form of teaching. While in the synagogue one Sabbath, Jesus takes a scroll and searches for a very specific passage in the book of Isaiah. Then he begins to read:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,
because He has anointed Me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent Me.
to proclaim freedom to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him. He began by saying to them, ‘“Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.’”
(Luke 4:18-21 HCSB)
By declaring this prophecy fulfilled, Jesus is proclaiming himself to be the Messiah. He is the one that will preach good news to the poor. He’s the one that will set the oppressed free and bring sight to the blind. He will be the one to bring God’s favor.
The thing that’s incredible about this moment is that Jesus rolled up the scroll and stopped reading in the middle of a sentence. He stopped where we would put a comma in the English language. The full sentence from Isaiah actually reads:
“to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance…” (Isaiah 61:2 HCSB)
The passage goes on to explain how God’s vengeance will comfort those who mourn. Why does Jesus stop reading at the comma? It’s because He won’t fulfill the prophecy of God’s vengeance until His second coming. The incredible truth is that we live inside a comma of mercy. Jesus could have come with judgment, but he keeps the end of this sentence in reserve so more people can be brought to Him. The entire church age is inside that comma. Everything that God accomplishes through our lives is in that comma. Our entire lives are nestled into one breath in the middle of a sentence.
Jesus holds off on reading the rest of that sentence for a purpose. Knowing that, how will you make your role in that comma significant?