Living Worship Series: LISTEN TO ME
Fourth Sunday in Easter - May 12, 2019
To Live for Jesus is to Listen to Jesus
Points to Explore
Hearing the Answers to Our Questions
Jesus does not always answer the questions the way we want. People gather around Jesus and demand that he tell them, plainly if he is the Messiah. Jesus replies that he has already told them, but they did not believe. This might appear to be a mere “he said/they said” situation, where recall of particular events differs from person to person. However, what seems to be happening here is that those questioning Jesus are looking for a particular type of answer and Jesus is not giving it to them. It is not that Jesus has not answered the question, but Jesus did not answer the question in the way that they expected to hear it. In order to hear Jesus’ answers to our questions, we need to let go of what we want to hear and listen to what Jesus is saying.
The Power of Actions
Jesus also replies, “The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe.” Those questioning Jesus perhaps wanted a yes or no. Jesus, however, notes that his actions have been clear and plain. The things that Jesus is able to do come not from human power but divine power. Jesus is reminding us that how we behave speaks as loudly (and sometimes more loudly) as what we say. God and Jesus are also united through Jesus’ actions. Because Jesus was doing what God had sent him to do, the work of Jesus cannot be separated from the work of God.
We Belong to God
Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God has claimed us. We belong to God, and no one can change that. That, of course, does not mean that discipleship is an easy road. Jesus often describes it to the contrary. But it does mean that we know where that road ends. And we know that we have the power of the Holy Spirit to help us walk that road. We also know that this is not because of who we are, but whose we are and who Jesus is. To believe in Jesus is also to belong to those who hear his voice. And no one can take away who we are in Christ.
As Jesus continues to speak, he finds a way to assert that although they may not be sure of his identity, he is. And while we ought to believe in Jesus, Jesus does not cease to be Jesus if we do not believe. No one can take away what the Father has given to Jesus, and no one can take away what God has given to us. Whatever our call, gifts, or particular identity in Christ, they are likely to be mocked or disbelieved or belittled. No matter how often this happens, our calls, gifts, and identity never cease to exist.
At the heart of this text is the question of Jesus’ identity. Who is this man? Those who came to him wanted to know if he was the Messiah. It is not clear why they were asking this question. It is not clear if they heard others say this about him, whether he had said it in some way about himself, or whether those who were asking were hoping that he would be. Whatever the reason, the identity of Jesus is of crucial importance, because the Messiah carries a particular authority that someone who is not the Messiah—but a good teacher and leader—does not. In this text, Jesus responds that he has already answered the question. On this side of the resurrection, Christians are content that the answer to this question is a resounding “yes.” Jesus is the Messiah. What that means leads us to another round of questions that theologians have been giving answers to for centuries. Jesus focuses on being one with God—its meaning also debated. But what we can say that we know for sure is that Jesus is more than a good teacher, leader, or miracle worker. Jesus’ connection with God is different from the connection that God has with other humans. The unity of God and Jesus also makes Jesus one who is worthy and deserving of our praise, worship, and lifelong devotion.
Questions for Reflection:
- What do your works communicate about your identity and discipleship? In what ways do your works and actions show others what your call from God is?
- Jesus states that his sheep hear Jesus’ voice. It isn’t the same for everyone. In what ways do you hear God’s voice?
- Although Jesus’ detractors have been told the truth, they did not comprehend. Sometimes we do not believe what we hear because it sounds too good to be true or too big. Are there things that God has communicated with you that you have chosen not to believe? What is it about this wonderful thing that scares you away from believing it to be true?
Rev. Annie Lockhart-Gilroy, PhD is Assistant Professor of Christian Education and Practical Theology at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, OK. She has served several congregations as a deacon focusing on youth ministry and Christian education. She received her M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, then worked with and directed a faith-based nonprofit before attaining her Ph.D. in Christian Education and Congregational Studies from Garrett-Evangelical Theological School. She publishes on various topics surrounding education and adolescent spirituality through blogs, articles, and scholarly publications.