Monday, June 22, 2015

Then Jesus Said To Them

One of the disservices I think we have done to Jesus is that we've given Him a bit too much authority, made Him a little too holy. That's going to sound strange to most of you (as it should), but hear me out. 

Because for most of my Christian life, indeed until only these most recent of days, Jesus has always spoken in this really weird voice for me. When I read the Scriptures, the Gospels, especially, and I imagine what it must have been like to hear Jesus speak, I can't help but hear His voice a little...strange.

Several years ago, I had an interview with a radio station who was looking for a new morning co-personality. (I know.) The interview went well; the established host and I really hit it off, and he invited me to do a sound test by recording some news clips for him. He took me into the booth and showed me the equipment, and my years as a church a/v tech really paid off, as I understood what I was looking at. Then, he left. And as soon as he left, I put on my best "radio voice" and recorded the most awkward-sounding clips ever. Needless to say, I did not get the job. Because I wasn't speaking in a real voice.

But that's kind of what we do to Jesus. At least, it's what I've been doing to Jesus. He has this authority voice, this holy voice. Every time He speaks, as I'm reading along, it doesn't sound...naturally human any more. It sounds like His God-voice. I picture Him on the mount, teaching a sermon like the preachers of yore, raising His voice, deepening it with authority, putting such a tone in it that it almost takes all the tone out of it. And when He casts out demons? Just imagine the authority in His voice! You probably do this, too. It's like one of Shakespeare's characters demanding, "Out, damned spot!"

Very serious. Very sober. Very...unreal.

What's funny is that the more I came to realize I was doing this to Jesus's voice, the more I realized I was doing it to all of His voice. Even if I were to imagine the Teacher sitting around the table with the disciples, He would use this very authoritative, unreal voice to request, "Peter, passeth the butter!" Out, damned spot!

When He would shout the name of the tax collector in the tree, it was less an invitation and more like my mother might call my name when I'm in trouble or when it's time to come in. No nonsense, no playing around. No tender familiarity. Just...You! Get in here! Now!

When, on the Cross, He speaks those incredible words - Father, forgive them. For they know not what they are doing - I've always read that as a declaration. As some holy pronouncement of God that secures their forgiveness, rather than longs for it. 

Take those last words, though. Start there. And put some grief into His voice. Soften it a bit. Take the authority out of it. Just a little, for we know He always spoke with real authority. (Authority, by the way, that was carried in His love, not in His voice.) But imagine here, just for a minute, that He's not God. That He's actually God's Son. That He's fully man, as much as He is fully divine. Imagine that He is broken-hearted, not over His present situation but over the men who stand over Him who have been charged with doing this wretched thing. Imagine that He looks into their eyes and sees men who have been captivated by the Roman doctrine, and He longs to have them captivated by God's. 

Now read the words again, from His heart, not His authority. Father, forgive them. For they know not what they are doing.

It changes His voice, doesn't it? 

The same can be done with every story in the Gospels. Every. Single. One. We have to read them as though Jesus is human, even though we can't shake the knowing that He is also God. When He calls the tax collector out of the tree, there is a familiarity in His voice, as though He is calling out to a friend. Hey, man! Long time no see! You got anything to eat at your place? Imagine as He breaks the bread around the table with the disciples, not a voice declaring a new sacrament but a man with a taste for the finer things. My friends, you must have a bite of this bread! 

Imagine Him sitting on the mount, not really preaching a sermon but discussing the issues of things the way good friends sit around the living room telling stories.

Imagine...if the words of the Gospels themselves were true and Jesus never raised His voice. Imagine...if He spoke not like some holy roller preacher of years gone by, but more and me. Imagine if the Son of God spoke with all the authority of heaven...and the meek voice of a man. 

Doesn't it change the way you think of Him? Doesn't it change the way you hear Him?

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