Video - Fourth Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday)
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
John 10:1-5
May 03, 2020

Voices and Jesus’s Voice

Jesus said, 1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10:1-5 ESV).

In Jesus’s Name. Amen.

We live in a world of voices; so many voices. There are many voices trying to sell us something. They tell us that we need what they are trying to sell. They create want. They create anxiety. What they have to sell will satisfy the want and relieve the anxiety. Maybe we need it, maybe we don’t. But let us not be driven by desire and anxiety.

There are so many voices of purported wisdom and knowledge. If you follow what I say and teach, they say; if you follow my methods and insights, they say, you will find enlightenment and the truth. They do not tell you that their wisdom and knowledge is limited, and may also have an agenda. But so many of these voices also criticize and judge the Holy Scriptures, God’s written word. How can there be enlightenment while also judging God’s word?

But there are so many voices along these lines, any more; how do we sort it all out? Which one is true? How do we know? I have heard this sort of distress often these days. This cacophony of voices seem so perplexing that we may be just simply resigned to the numbness of agnosticism; to the paralysis of inaction. So then it may seem to make sense to find the wisdom within yourself. All you need to do is find the answers in your heart. Become your own source of wisdom and knowledge. But what happens when your own heart deceives you?

There are so many voices of pleasure. These voices promise that if you satisfy your passions and desires, you will find what your soul is looking for. But the satisfaction of the passion is only momentary and not lasting. On the other hand, the passion itself never ceases. The passion itself demands more and more and more of your life.

Then there are the voices of pain. Life can bring such intense pain at times. I am speaking here primarily of soul pain, not physical pain. How do we silence this voice? Medicate it? Kill it? But the only way to kill this pain is to destroy oneself.

An important thing to do in response to this voice is to give voice to the pain toward the One who can really heal, Jesus Christ our Lord. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou, or Lord, my Good Shepherd, art with me (Psalm 23:4).

Then there are the voices of condemnation: the voice of condemnation from someone else; the voice of condemnation from within yourself. How do you silence these voices? How do you escape them? The only way of life is to be able to swallow these voices up in grace. But where do you find that grace?

Does it really work to try to forgive yourself from within yourself, on the basis of your own authority to yourself? I have never found it so, especially when the voice of condemnation comes from within myself. I have never found it so, when I need a higher authority from the outside to speak to me forgiveness; the authority above all other authority. So I have found that the only voice that can silence the voice of condemnation is the voice of our Good Shepherd, Jesus, who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). He is the only Shepherd who has done this.

Then there are the voices that command and demand and restrict and restrain. They justify their voice in the name of some sort of salvation. They are saving voices, these commanding and demanding voices. But they save by way of enslavement, because they only know how to save by demanding and restricting and restraining. And then if you do not obey their demanding, they sanction and punish. They can’t do otherwise because that is the nature of demand and command.

We need some of this to restrain and punish bad conduct, like violence, lying, and stealing, and the dark side of human nature. But we do not need this for salvation. We need some of this so that there can be a good measure of outward peace in society, but not for this voice to be total. If this voice gets too total, such that it is the only voice one hears, then it generates either despair or anger. What is unlawful and unjust also applies to this voice.

There are so many voices. It almost seems to drive one crazy at times, especially at times like these.

So maybe the solution to all the voices is to find silence. So maybe if Jesus is yet another voice, it does not sound like comfort for the worn out soul and the ringing in the ears. So maybe silence is the sound that heals and is the sound we are longing for.

Well maybe so, until you hear the nature of His voice. To the soul worn out by so many voices, He just offers Himself. The nature of His voice is self-giving.

But maybe we have encountered the self-giving voice before. But it sounds in the nature of a quid pro quo. This voice gives but not for free. If it gives with the right hand, it also takes with the left. What it takes, is your freedom. It purports to satisfy some need you have on the surface, but it takes and enslaves at a deeper level.

We get suspicious that self-giving is like the bait on a hook. But this is not the nature of Jesus’s self-giving.

He gives Himself to our deepest need, not to enslave, but to free us from the need, in Himself. And in this freedom, we find our true selves in Him.

He is the only One who can really do this kind of self-giving in Himself that gives freedom in Himself and the finding of one’s true self in His self-giving. This is something He alone can work in your soul, because He is goodness and life and truth. He speaks as the one who lays down His life for you. As He speaks this in His word, He works it through His Spirit within your soul. His speaking leads your heart gently and patiently in ever increasing surrender to Him, in surrender to the One who is Good. In this surrender to Him, He gives you back yourself in a true freedom in Him. And you then cannot help but follow Him where He leads.

Yes, Jesus does speak in a voice. He is a message of speech, either spoken or written to us. But His voice is the voice of grace. It is the voice of forgiveness. It is not the voice of imposition. It is the voice of drawing to Himself in gentleness.

His is the only voice in which the gentleness of grace comes forth from the One who also has power over death, who has all authority in heaven and on earth. Indeed, He is the One who took this power over death by rising again from death in indestructible life.

We need that His voice of grace is also the voice of the One who has such power. Because then when He speaks forgiveness, He speaks it as the One who has supreme authority. But as the One who has supreme authority, He also speaks it as the One who laid down His life for you and me. He speaks it as the one who gives in gentleness; who gives life and that abundantly.

Let us hear His voice where He speaks it. He leads us in His grace and truth to well-being and everlasting life.

Amen.



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