Among many other qualities, Jesus was known for how He spoke. Unable to arrest Jesus, the officers defended themselves with the confession, “ ‘No man ever spoke like this Man!’ ” (John 7:46). His listeners were also astonished at His teaching, because He taught them with an authority they weren’t used to (Matt. 7:29; Mark 1:11). He had a balance they had never seen before: His righteousness and intimacy with God clearly transcended that of their religious leaders, but His intimate compassion and closeness to all levels of humanity was contrary to what they’d experienced in such holy men.

Instead of the expected words of condemnation, Jesus explicitly and tenderly told the woman caught in adultery that He did not condemn her, and sent her into a life of freedom from sin (John 8:1–12). When sought after by a religious leader under the cover of darkness, He gently rebuked him for not knowing the basics of salvation, and yet shared some of the most gospel-centric and truth-condensed verses in all of Scripture (John 3:1–20). He tactfully guided the woman at the well to an exposure of her need and misunderstandings and then gave her one of the very few explicit acknowledgements of His Messiahship (John 4:5–26). He used countless real-life experiences to both clearly share the gospel with all open hearts and enshroud it in mystery for those who would only abuse His words (e.g., Luke 14, 15).

Jesus could speak this way because of who He was. Not in the sense that His words cannot be spoken by His people today, but in the sense that He was one with God, so it was expressed by His words. There’s a difference between sounding kind and expressing kindness from the heart. To have such words come from the heart, the heart itself must be captured and transformed by the Holy Spirit. The new heart is given as a free gift by God to all who are willing (Ezek. 36:26, 27).

Those who struggle with their words may try of their own volition to say this and not that, to make promises, and they may even make strides. But it is treating the symptom of an issue that only Jesus has the power to change. Jesus did not come just to secure the possibility for us, but also to show what the result of such a glorious surrender can be. As humanity’s living Example, He invites His disciples in every age to walk with Him and after Him, even in word.