During World War II, American soldiers developed a graffiti image that became an emblem of survival. Especially if you are from a military family, you’ve seen the image before: a person with a comically long nose, peering over an edge with the phrase, ‘Kilroy Was Here’.
This odd image became a rallying cry for American troops to draw, wherever they went. Every time they took an enemy stronghold or made it through a battle, Kilroy would show up on the wall. It was an image of hope and determination, as well as some much-needed humor.
There’s an oddly similar practice in the authorship of the gospels. A word will show up in one story and appear in another, tying the two narrative locations together to help us read what’s going on. It’s the Holy Spirit’s equivalent of ‘Kilroy Was Here’ in the pages of scripture.
Let me give you an example of this practice, which the academics call a ‘verbal thread’. In Mark 1, Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan and comes up out of the water to see the heavens ‘torn’ open. We see Mark use this same word in another poignant place:
And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Mark 15:37-38 (ESV)
This verbal thread, this ‘Kilroy Was Here’, helps us tie together the story of Jesus’ baptism and the tearing of the curtain. Just as God tore the heavens to tell us that he was pleased with Jesus, so he tore open the curtain to tell us he is well-pleased with us.
Another important place is Peter’s denial of Jesus in John. In Chapter 18, Peter is in the temple courtyard and denies he knows Jesus as he warms himself by the ‘charcoal fire’. When Jesus lovingly restores Peter, in Chapter 21, he’s waiting on the beach cooking fish over a ‘charcoal fire’. These instances are important verbal play that make us pay attention. How do these stories inform each other? We want to ask what do we learn about God when we put these anecdotes side-by-side?
In a sense, God does this in our lives too. Every once in a while, when we look with the right kind of eyes, we can see his graffiti on the wall: ‘God was here’. God was present, God brought this blessing or this change, seemingly out of nowhere and his fingerprints are all over it. I encourage you to keep a watchful eye for the threads of God’s presence in your life.
Presented by Greg Williams
About the presenter:
Word of Life each Sunday is taken from Speaking of Life, (https://www.gci.org/videos/media-speaking-of-life/), a public resource video on the USA website of Grace Communion International. Greg Williams is President of Grace Communion International and lives in North Carolina, USA.
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