Salem Lutheran Church

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A Voice of Love

Did you ever ask a question to which you already knew the answer? I know I used to do it as a kid all the time, especially when my folks had told me I couldn’t do something or get something. The question that I would ask after they would say ‘No,” was "Why can’t I…?". And oftentimes I asked it so much that my parents would get mad, and then I knew I was done asking it when my mom would stop trying to explain it and finally say, “Because I said so.” And, by the way, to prove God has a sense of humor, our kids did the same thing to Jill and I when they were young.

In much the same way, throughout his ministry, Jesus was often asked questions that had already been answered. Our text this morning begins with one of those questions that must have really bothered Jesus. As our story begins, we are told it was the time during which the Jews would have celebrated the festival of the Dedication. We know this festival best today as Hanukkah. Jesus was in the Temple in Jerusalem and "The Jews (the religious leaders) gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ " If we were to translate this question literally it would read, “How long will you take away our life?”. Now, that doesn’t make sense, but as most Greek scholars will tell you, this phrase was an idiom, a phrase that the people of Jesus’ day would have understood not literally but figuratively. So, if we would translate it as the 1st Century hearers would have understood it, we would say, “How long will you continue to annoy us? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” I can just hear Jesus screaming, “How long will I annoy you? Will I tell you plainly?”.

Remember last week when we talked about how Peter and the disciples went fishing, and how they had witnessed all the incredible signs Jesus had performed? Well, we have the same thing going on in our text today. Jesus has not verbally said he is the Messiah, but he had turned water into wine (John 2:1-11), and they knew it. He had fed 5,000 people with five barley loves and two fish (John 6:1-14), and they knew it. He healed a man on the Sabbath who had been ill for 38 years (John 5:5-9), and they knew about it. Jesus had healed the man born blind (John 9:1-41), and they knew it. How much clearer could he have been? These were all acts that only God could have done. And, immediately after this story, the leaders will witness Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. Jesus could have verbally said anything, but instead he wanted his actions to speak for who he was, so he told them plainly, “The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me…” (John 10:25). In other words, look at my actions, they are as plain as the nose on your face. Jesus must have been frustrated. He was trying so hard to open the world’s eyes and hearts to God, but the world did not want to see. And so, he finally tells them why they are failing to see the truth.

They did not understand because they did not belong to Jesus’ “sheep.” In other words, “You guys have already made up your minds that I am not the Messiah so no matter what I say or do you will not see me for who I really am.” It is not that they cannot be part of Jesus’ flock; in fact, they have been invited to be, but they have chosen to reject the invitation. They have chosen to ignore the obvious and seek a different answer. They wanted a messiah that would do things the way they wanted them done. They wanted a messiah that would conform to their way of understanding scripture. They wanted God that would dole out His justice and mercy based on their conditions. Jesus would not respond to their demands that day, or any day, but instead he continued to invite them to draw their conclusions on the basis of his actions. In our case, I think Jesus expects us to draw our conclusions based on the actions of those who call him Lord today. Jesus expects us to listen to his voice, a voice of love, and follow that voice and not the voice of this world.

The challenge is for us to be able to recognize this voice of love over all the other voices that we hear. Jesus’ voice is a voice that commands us to feed the hungry. Jesus’ voice of love is the voice that calls us to stand with those who are oppressed and seek to end their oppression. Jesus’ voice is the one that says, you, too, were once an immigrant; so welcome the immigrant into your home. Jesus’ voice is the voice that says, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and find shelter for the homeless.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). I find this to be a very fitting text for today because today we celebrate Mother’s Day, and we all know our mother’s voice. To this day, just by hearing her voice I can tell you if my mother is happy, mad, sad, scared, worried…, just by how she says my name. I have heard her voice for 60 years and I know it well. My kids know Jill’s voice! And as recently as last week, I witnessed my grandchildren, still in the NICU, hear and respond to their mother’s voice. A voice filled with hope, with strength, with assurance, and with love. With their eyes closed, I watched them reach for her hand as she spoke to them and held them. They listen to her voice and they know her. That is how well Jesus wants us to know his voice and listen to it.

And when we come to know Jesus’ voice and when we can listen to his voice, then we can follow him, as we were challenged to do in the text last week. Listening to Jesus means we can’t sit on the sidelines of life. To listen to Jesus means we must get involved and care about others and care about bringing justice into an unjust world. Listening to Jesus means we are willing to stop asking the questions to which we already know the answer. Listening to Jesus means we are willing to change ourselves, for the sake of God’s Kingdom. What does this mean?

It means living sacrificially. It means being willing to share our gifts and treasures generously. It means finding ways to care for the poor, and feed the hungry, and stand with the immigrant. It means standing with the oppressed, and even if they don’t fit the “norm” of our society. Why do we have to do these things? Because it is how Jesus lived, and Jesus said this is what we do if we say we believe in him. We do them because Jesus said so.

We Christians love to stress orthodoxy in our confessions, that is, right thinking, and right believing, but right thinking and believing do not always translate into right living. Jesus is willing to let his "works" be his witness (John 5:36; 10:38; 14:11), and he expects us to do the same. Jesus was willing to live his life forgiving sinners. Jesus was willing to be merciful, even to those who despised him. Jesus was willing to love those whom did not love him back. Jesus was willing to share all his gifts with others. Jesus didn’t see his gifts as something to be exploited for personal gain, but as gifts God had given him so that he could bring about God’s will in this world. Jesus knew his Father’s voice and he listened, and today we are challenged to do the same.

To all the moms here today, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day and I pray that your children always know your voice of love. And for all of us, I pray that we might truly come to know the loving voice of Jesus, and may that voice be the one we follow as we put our love into action. Amen.


Tags: Sermons