Wednesday, November 25, 2015

To Hear Him Speak

One of the most amazing testimonies about Jesus (aside, of course, of all that death, burial, resurrection, salvation of the world motif) is that there is a testimony about Jesus at all. The most amazing element of Jesus' ministry is that there is a ministry at all. It's absolutely amazing the sheer number of persons who came out just to hear Jesus speak.

Particularly when He wasn't saying popular things.

It's a bit hard for us to conceptualize, as we've made speaking both a professional event in our culture and at the same time, something so commonplace that it hardly bears mentioning. We might pay good money for tickets to hear our favorite...whoever...speak at a particular venue. And yet, we scroll right past 90% of what our friends have to say on social media. 

In the first case, we go because there's something about the person or the message that we find highly agreeable. Usually, the person we're willing to pay to see is someone who agrees with our views. It's a comedian who we find funny because he has the same take on the world that we do. It's the preacher who reads the same things into the Gospel that we do. It's the woman who's been through the same life situation as we're facing. Most of us would invest neither our time nor our money to listen to someone we just don't agree with. 

But that's not the case with Jesus. Persons are traveling days to hear this Man speak. They're listening intently to what He says, even though what He says goes against everything they've been taught to believe. In fact, that's an entire premise of many of His sermons. You have heard it said....but I say to you.... And who wants to be told, after keeping his life pure from the sin of adultery, that he's guilty anyway because he's thought about another woman in his heart? Who wants to be told that, although she never followed through in actually killing that jerk, the feelings she has about the whole thing will call her to account anyway? Who's going to stick around to hear that kind of talk? 


Even the Pharisees can't seem to let go of their inclination to hear Jesus speak. Of course, we're told that they were trying to catch Him in something prosecutable, but let's be honest: there are several points in the Pharisaical story where any reasonable man would have given up. Jesus answers their questions, their objections, and their traps so well that at some point, a man just has to realize he's never going to catch Him. But they kept coming anyway. If you read the Gospels with an eye on the Pharisees, you get the impression that they heard nearly every word He ever said. That's amazing! Because He never once agrees with them.

In the second case, we scroll right past most of what our friends say because, well, they're our friends. We are around them so often, and bombarded by their social media presences, so it's reasonable that we wouldn't necessarily catch everything they post. Isn't it?

But this isn't the case with Jesus, either. Those who were longing to hear Him speak heard every word. The disciples, the Pharisees, the crowds on the hillsides, the demons, the broken, the hungry...they heard every word. The disciples are later able to recall His very words. The Pharisees quote Him on it. There are a few recordings of puzzlement in the Gospels - what did Jesus mean by that? - but there is not one moment where someone asks - what did He say? They heard Him. Loud and clear. 

Because they were listening.

It would be easy, of course, just to speak to the first group - to those who already have a strong agreement with whatever it is that I have to say. But what good is that? Speaking to your own constituencies just widens the gap between who you are and who they are. It creates divisions in the world, even while it deceptively feels like you're building a tribe. 

It would be easy to just speak and let your friends figure out what they want to hear and what they don't. But what good is this? You become a product of their own interpretations rather than the outpouring of God's divine imagination. And when your friends lose sight of who you really are, it's not long before your vision gets blurred, as well.

One of the most amazing things about Jesus is how many persons came out just to hear Him speak. I think the reason is that Jesus speaks with such authenticity, authority, and grace that it's impossible not to listen. And it's not even His story He's telling; it's God's. In Him.

As I ponder my insecurities, I'm aware that one of my many insecurities in this world is the strength of my own voice. I want to be intentional about what I say and how I say it, and the more I think about it, the more I want to learn to speak in the way that Jesus spoke - with authority, with authenticity, with grace. Not because I have some amazing story to tell, but because I have the most amazing story to tell. It's God's story. In me.

I don't imagine I'll ever draw the crowds that Jesus did. I don't imagine I'll ever strike just the right balance. I don't imagine that there will ever be books written about the things that I said, that there will ever be these wide-scale testimonies of my ministry (whatever form that has taken, is taking, or will take over the course of the years God grants me). 

But I'm being intentional anyway. I'm working on authenticity anyway. I'm working on grace anyway. Because one day there might be, there just might be, even one voice that says, "I heard her speak...and I knew I had to hear more about this Jesus."

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