“Speeches measured by the hour die with the hour.” Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson was a major proponent of succinctness in his speeches. He was a voracious reader throughout his life. Having gleaned this style from his study of the classics, he then put it to use in being concise and direct and to the point when he addressed the crowd. He never was one to show confidence and charisma in public speaking. Not that that’s a bad thing.
Panegyric, simplistically defined means praise. Big, bold, loud praise—directed toward a person. The word is translated from Latin, and originally from Greek, both meaning “belonging in a public gathering or assembly”. A more detailed definition is eulogy. A speech or address to a crowd in honor of the subject after their passing. I would have to say that your usual, run-of-the-mill panegyric doesn’t apply to someone after they’ve risen from the dead. As my dad would say, “the funeral’s over when the person rises from the dead.” Pretty much.
“For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:16-17, emphasis mine)
Jesus’ resurrection is the crux, the turning point of the whole narrative of the Bible. You could say it began when He was born in a manger in Bethlehem, but even that was for one reason: So He could die. For us—for our sin and sins.
“They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whoseoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.” (John 16:2)
What did it take for Paul to change from someone who “persecuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9), certainly thinking that he was “doing God service”. From someone who, as he says in Acts (26:10) “when [Christians] were put to death, [gave his] voice against them”, to someone who, “determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)? Paul was the most ardent and persecutory Pharisee among his peers. But through the love of Jesus, he effectively changed into someone who was able to “glory in [his] infirmities.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) He stands as one of the greatest, if not the greatest conversion story in the whole Bible. Certainly the New Testament.
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:15, emphasis mine)
All of this happens because Paul was called by God and He responded. Paul was naturally gifted at oration. He had no problem standing up and addressing the crowd: “Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.” (Acts 13:16) He then proceeds to genealogize Jesus. He says in verse 30, “But God raised Him from the dead.” (Acts 13:30) This takes guts. Behind the simplicity of that statement lies the inherent power of all of Heaven. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we therefore can be changed into whatever God had in mind when He first thought of us, then proceeded to create us. We can now receive forgiveness for our sins! We’re here now, for a reason. For this season.
It doesn’t take much. The entire Gospel can be summed up and explained with a few short lines. Jesus came. He lived. He died. He rose from the dead. He loves you. Or you can compose symphonies and sermons and panegyrics ad infinitum. Just make sure you don’t leave out the fact that He’s still with us. That’s where the power is.
Jefferson published a book entitled “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth”, known now as “The Jefferson Bible”. It’s essentially the Gospel of Jesus minus anything supernatural. In what might be the ultimate example of ill-advised redaction (editing for a favorable reception upon publication), he ends the book with the stone being rolled over the tomb after Jesus’ burial.