Never Man So Spoke
At the conclusion of the feast of the tabernacles, the Lord Jesus had stood and cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink” (Jn. 7:37).
What a controversial invitation that was! There is little wonder that it caused such a stir among the people.
In fact, a division arose among the multitude concerning Christ. Some affirmed that Jesus was “the prophet” (cf. Deut. 18:15-19). Others alleged that he was the Christ. And some denied both.
The chief priests and Pharisees sent a group of deputies to arrest the Lord, but they returned empty-handed. When these officials were pressed as to why they failed in their mission, they replied, amazingly, “Never man so spake.” (Jn. 7:46). Their answer deserves careful analysis.
First, they acknowledged, Never man so spake.
Never is an awfully long time! These officers were undoubtedly sincere, and they told the truth as they felt it. But the fact is, they revealed far more than they knew.
Neither before Christ nor since, has any man spoken as he did.
Demosthenes is characterized as the greatest speaker of the ancient world, but can anyone quote one line from his famous speech, “On The Crown”?
Cicero was the most famous speaker of ancient Rome, but his orations lie buried in the dust of antiquity.
Daniel Webster has been called “the greatest orator that ever lived in the Western Hemisphere.” But can specifically cite any of his words? Probably not, and he has been dead for less than two centuries.
However, the words of Jesus’ great sermons roll from the tongues of king and commoners alike. And his words change the lives of multitudes. Truly, there was never another like him!
Second, the officers stressed that never man spake so."
There is meaning in that emphasis. These auditors of the Lord were in some way recognized that the words and manner of Jesus’ teaching was particularly unusual.
His words could not be explained in terms of mere human brilliance. His message pointed to a higher source!
The Master himself had repeatedly observed that one who is of the earth speaks like one of the earth, but one “from above” will speak as from above. So, “he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God”(cf. Jn. 3:31-35.)
When the Jews observed that he was not university educated, marveled at his teaching. The Lord replied, “My teaching is not mine, but his that sent me.” (cf. Jn. 7:15, 16).
No man ever spoke as he, for he was more than man. He was deity in the flesh (Jn. 1:1, 14), speaking a message ordained in heaven!
Third, it is interesting to note that the temple officers acknowledged that the power of the lord’s influence was in his speaking, that is, through his words.
How very different from those vain philosophies, both ancient and modern, that assert truth is found inside a man. This popular philosophy claims that each person discovers his own truth. This way, what may be “truth” for you, may be something entirely different for me.
No, Christ came to reveal the mind of God by means of those vehicles of communication that we call “words.” In the commencement of John’s gospel account, Jesus is called the divine “Word” (
The Greek term suggests that Christ is “the representative and expression of what God has to say to the world, in whom and by whom God’s mind and purposes towards the world find their expression” (Cremer, 396.)
In former ages, the Father spoke to the patriarchs by the prophets in various ways, such as dreams and visions). But now, he has spoken through his Son. (Heb. 1:1, 2).
The Lord declared, “[T]the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life” (Jn. 6:63).
How very urgent it is to know those words which he spake!
Fourth, there is significance in that the officers announced that, “Never man, spake so.” The adverb hints of a uniqueness that set Christ’s teaching apart. Consider the following.
Jesus spoke with a unique perspective in time. Jesus was the only person to exist before his own conception (Jn. 1:1, 14; 8:58). He knew of the glory he shared with the Father before the world existed. (Jn. 17:5).
Again we are reminded that he claimed to be “from above” and thus his teaching was consistent with what he had both “seen and heard” before his birth (cf. Jn. 3:31, 32).
No one ever spake like that!
Next, his speaking was authoritative. The scribes of Jesus’ day could hardly say “boo” without quoting a dozen rabbis of the past to buttress their assertions. But the Savior employed no rabbinical crutches. In fact, he contradicted their legal interpretations and even dared to assert that his teaching went beyond Moses’ (cf. Mt. 5:21, 22; 27, 28; 31, 32; 33, 34; 38, 39; 43, 44).
So it is no surprise that when Christ had concluded his great “Sermon on the Mount” the multitudes “were astonished at his teaching: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” (Mt. 7:28, 29.)
Then consider this. The Lord combined wisdom divine with both tenderness and firmness. Think about his dealings with honest sinners (Jn. 8:1ff) and hardened rebels (Mt. 23:13f). No teacher had ever been so fair in his teaching.
Finally, there is one more aspect to his unusual teaching style. In his discourses, Jesus was able to happily combine the most profound of spiritual truths with the simplest language of expression. His teaching was designed to be accessible to all, easy to understand.
His parables, for example, are masterpieces in conveying truth on a level where all can understand. Many who aspire to be teachers have failed to follow his sterling example in this regard.
Yes, those officers were quite accurate when they exclaimed, “Never man so spoke!”
- Cremer, Hermann. 1962. Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek. Edinburgh, Scotland: T. & T. Clark.