One of the things that the military in general and Marines in particular LOVE to do is give examinations. You name it, the Marines will examine it. All throughout Officer Candidate School and continuing into The Basic School [where every Marine officer learns to be first of all a platoon commander], we had examination after examination.
Now, the Marines aren’t as stupid as everyone thinks they are. They know that everyone is working long hours and getting little sleep, so when they were going to tell you something that…ahem…you might see later on an exam, they would literally knock on the wood of the podium, or stomp on the floor. This was a signal to all the half asleep Marine officers that they’d better sit up and start taking notes [as opposed to continue attempting to sleep while sitting at attention, which we became very adept at doing, but I digress]. It was kind of like Pavlov’s dog, the instructor would knock on the podium and suddenly 150 Marines would sit up and start writing.
Jesus is kind enough to knock on wood for us many times in the gospels in general and the Gospel of John in particular. I’m on to my next pericope in John 5.19-30. Jesus knocks on wood three times here. How does he knock on wood? I’m glad you
didn’t asked. He says the words, “Truly, truly,” which in the Greek look like this—Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν. For the non-Greek studs, that little word is pronounced “amen” and means…amen! (which has an interesting little trip from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to English). Louw-Nida says that the word is “a strong affirmation of what is declared—’truly, indeed, it is true that.'”
Jesus uses “truly, truly” or “amen, amen” when he wants to make sure that we really get what he is going to say. He “knocks on wood” so that we don’t miss the next statement. In this passage what he really wants us to know is:
- The Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner
- He who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
- An hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
Indeed, Jesus double emphasizes those three things. Not only does he say, “Truly, truly,” but he adds to that, “I say unto you.” Here’s the thing: He is already talking to his listeners. He is already “saying unto you,” why would he stop and remind them that he is saying unto them? He says this for emphasis. Anywhere in the gospels in which someone is speaking and says “I say unto you,” you’d better stop napping, sit up straight, grab your pen and start taking notes. They are about to say something supremely important.