When we hear Jesus’ words spoken, they sound like poetry, no matter how they’re printed on the page.
A book landed on my desk with the curious title The Poems of Jesus Christ. “Somebody putting words in Jesus’ mouth?” I wondered. Not at all. The poet and scholar Willis Barnstone has simply gone back to the biblical text, translating from the original, and shown how Jesus in the gospels speaks in pure poetry.
“The poetic images, the imaginative leaps, the wisdom paradoxes are all there,” he says. He goes on to point out that when we hear Jesus’ words spoken, they sound like poetry, no matter how they’re printed on the page. Here’s a quick sampling from Barnstone’s book. The last is my all-time favorite, a perfect prayer and poem in two words.
Do not worry about tomorrow,
For tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough troubles of its own.
Whoever welcomes a child
In my name also welcomes me
And whoever welcomes me welcomes
The one who sent me.
If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed
You could say to this black mulberry tree,
“Pluck yourself up by the roots and plant yourself
In the sea,” and it would still obey you.
I am the good shepherd
And I know my own and my own know me
As the father knows me and I know the father.
And I lay down my life for the sheep.
The strong have no need of a doctor,
But the sick do.
I came not to call on the just but on the stumblers.