“The Compelling Quality Of Jesus’ Voice”

Sermon Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – April 22, 2018

Centenary United Methodist Church

Psalm 138; John 10:11-18  

    Last week, we considered how Jesus' life was being pruned when his life was suddenly put on hold until he was thirty years old.  Next, we used our imaginations to consider how Jesus' influence reached into the minds and hearts of people in every country of our world while remaining alive for only three more years.  What made Jesus' voice so compelling that it caused his teachings to leave Galilee by word-of-mouth and spread everywhere?

    We know from early traditions that Jesus had an exquisite mind.  Like many of us, his mind was always thinking. He continued to question everything in his culture that had not changed appreciably for centuries.

    We recall the episode when he was twelve years old.   His parents had gone a day's journey before they realized that Jesus was not among their group of travelers.  Upon returning to Jerusalem, they found him sitting with religious leaders in the Temple courtyard.  Luke wrote:

On the third day of searching, his parents found him sitting with Jewish teachers listening to them and asking questions.  All who listened to him were amazed at his intelligent responses. (Luke 2:46f)

    Try to imagine what took place within Jesus' fertile mind for the next eighteen years.  It is quite possible that during those years, Jesus was connecting-the-dots that answered the question of why God had been absent in the recent history of his people. All that Jesus needed was a triggering device and he would be on his way to changing the world.

    Last week, we discussed that triggering device.  He went on a five to six day journey from Galilee to the Jordan River to hear what his cousin John was saying.  Jesus heard words from his cousin that threw the switch  triggering his understanding and soon his enlightenment.  He walked into the river where he had the experience of what he felt was God's voice giving him a new identity as God's son.

    Today, when we consider what is happening to people that surround us, many of us would agree that people are starving to death spiritually without knowing their need for nourishment. There are so many voices inviting people to make a decision to take a stand for this cause and that cause.

          I enjoy watching television commercials and reading advertisements.  I want to understand what techniques advertisers are using to create a need in people for what they are selling when that need was not there the day before. What makes us so willing to follow a desire that some company has planted in our minds?

    In the United States people have observed how pharmaceutical companies in recent years are by-passing physicians by saying, "Ask your doctor if Latuda is right for you." The testimonies of this medication tell us that it helps people to think more clearly, feel less nervous and helps them to take a more active, productive, and enthusiastic part in their everyday living. 

    Isn't that just the best advertisement?  Who would not want this?  Think of it!  We are led to believe that all we have to do is take a pill and our lives will come together for us.  Is this really the magic bullet that will take away all unresolved conflicts, give us pleasant attitudes, and help awaken each morning refreshed and eager to deal with the issues of a new day?  Ah, the allure of promises.

    Lois and I were first-time visitors to a new pharmacy here in Bermuda that featured a powdery substance that will cause people to lose weight.  The containers of this substance were gigantic and cost over a hundred dollars.  The testimony on the side of the canister claimed that it will help people to lose 30 pounds during the first 40 days and shrink the waist by 7 inches.  

    We are not in short supply of the brain-washing that goes on day after day.  Advertisements can tease our minds with fantasies.    

    We are shown footage of 30-year olds who look like models adorned in their skimpy bathing suits. They have beautiful children that look like they just came from the Walt Disney studios.  This family of actors is experiencing a vacation at the beach resort in the Bahamas called Atlantis. They are shown being pampered in their own private villa suspended over water, waited on by their personal chef who is preparing a surf and turf meal on a grill at their villa. Every scene the ad creates features happy people laughing and drinking as though life is one large party.

    In spite of wonderful memories and remarkable pictures, at the end of our experience, we still find ourselves looking and waiting for the next experience that will please us. Reality sets in when we realize that young families often do not have the financial resources to pay for such an experience. 

    Jesus gave us a clue on how to discriminate between the voices that are quite persistent with their invitations. He said:

I am the Good Shepherd.  As God knows me and I know God, in the same way I know my sheep and they know me. There are other sheep which belong to me that are not in this sheep pen.  I must bring them too; they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock with one shepherd. (John 10:14f)  

    If there is one quality in Jesus' voice that is not found in any other voice, what would that be? Think about this before you answer.   It is common sense when we think about it.  Jesus offers only one path to happiness, performance, and fulfillment.

    All the voices penetrating our minds are inviting us to find happiness and fulfillment by accepting what is coming from the external world.  People are being held prisoner by thinking that they would be happy if only this or that would change.  They want their world to change instead of changing their minds about their world.  The world is not going to change for anyone.

    What Jesus offered with his words was a calling that invited his listeners to create lasting happiness, fulfillment, enthusiasm, and excellent health by developing their own inner resources.  There is nothing coming from the external world that will rescue us.

    The Jews were stuck in obedience to external rules theoretically generated by Moses.  Jesus walked away from Thou Shalts and substituted an invitation for people to develop their innate, loving attitudes of being. 

    Our Bible Study is currently considering the first letter of John.  A passage that we have not yet reached in our study features these words:

Everything that belongs to the world, i.e., what people see and want that makes them feel good for the moment, none of it comes from God.  These things all come from the world.  The world with all its high drama, worthy causes and trinkets is a temporary illusion.  Do not buy into any of it. What the world offers will mold us into its image. It will cause us to develop desires and cravings for more of what we do not need. Rather develop our spirits that radiate from within us.  (I John 2:15f)

    One of the best visual expressions of this understanding goes back three decades when it was first used. What John was describing as coming from the world's numerous invitations is like "rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic." 

    No matter what is happening in the world, or the various personalities who appear to be governing it at the moment, the drama being created is no different from what happened during the rise and fall of the Roman Empire or the rise and fall of the Aztec, Inca or Mayan civilizations. 

    The life-drama that we are experiencing will come to an end when we die or as what actually happens -- we leave the movie theatre that featured all the polarizing tensions of living.

    Most of the issues that cause us to worry and fret are beyond our ability to control.  Jesus understood this.  He never mentioned the Roman occupation of his people.  He never discussed the tax burden Rome had levied on the Jews.  He never attacked the Laws provided by Moses over a thousand years earlier.  What he did do was to improve many of those Laws.  He replaced being obedient with being free to choose what will control our lives.

    He said,

You have heard it said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth', but now I tell you: Do not take revenge on anyone who has wronged you.  If someone takes you to court and sues you for your shirt, give to that person your coat as well. (Matthew 5:38f)

    Think about this:  How we interpret our world comes from our thoughts.  This is why some people are happy during most of their lives while others are not.  Some people have chosen to remain resentful and frustrated while others have chosen to paint outside the lines with different bright colors. 

    When we listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd, the words we hear do not change the ways of the world, they transform us by helping us to understand what each episode in life is trying to teach us.  The Apostle Paul completely understood this message when he wrote:

Our inner spirits can produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, humility, forgiveness, generosity, and self-control.  There is no law against such as these.  All of those who are followers of Jesus have put to death their egos with all its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22f)

    When we hear this litany of qualities, where have they been stored for most of our lives? Can we find anything in the world that can instill these qualities in us? If we say "yes," we are believing in something that was impossible for Jesus to do.  His message did not give hope to Judas or instill authentic confidence in Peter.  Those were choices each of the two made at a critical time during Jesus' ministry.

    Jesus could communicate all of the qualities mentioned by Paul but the only way that people can do the same thing is by choosing to use them.  All of them are stored within us awaiting their use.  This is why Jesus' voice has been so compelling. Jesus was teaching how to access and use what all of us possess.

    Some of us find Jesus to be among the most important people that we are holding on to in this life.  Jesus never requested that any one hold on to him and, worse yet, worship him. What he wanted was for his followers to internalize what he was teaching.  He let go of his life after only three years of pointing to what will bring fulfillment to everyone in  the world. Look what letting go and letting God did to human history!  

    If we cannot find the answer that brings us peace, we are still listening to a voice coming from the external world telling us that something outside of ourselves needs to change.  The answer to life's numerous pains lies within ourselves.  What is outside of us is teaching us to look elsewhere.

    The cure cannot be found in our external world, a world that can only offer us material solutions.  We need to let go of all of it and rely on God's love to take us into an uncertain future that is made certain by our trust in what we cannot see.  (Hebrews 11:1)



Thank you, God, for being our faithful source of strength when our spirits lack courage. Your loving spirit surrounds us even when we know we are unworthy.  When we misplace our ability to cope with life-reversals, a friend comes.  When we feel violated by the realities of our world, you soothe our hurts with the knowledge that we are not alone.  When our fears tell us that our lives have too many unfulfilled dreams, you remind us that Jesus was thirty when he spiritually awakened. Enable us to understand that each day brings new opportunities for us to be a blessing to others simply through our desire to be their friend. Amen.



Merciful God, we are hungry to discover and learn more creative ways to tap into the unseen world that governs the quality of our lives.  As we enter our worship experience, we open ourselves to ways of moving away from the pace our comfortable routines have set for us.  Many times we are blessed by being here.  We rekindle our desire to walk toward a new horizon, develop a refreshing attitude, or learn a more creative way to respond to old irritations.  Help us to leave this service knowing more clearly who it is we wish  to become.

We often become painfully aware that when we reenter the world, frequently all our old ways of thinking and feeling are still with us.  Just like Jesus' disciples, we can easily forget nearly everything that we have learned.   Guide us to understand that we will never have the skills of a seasoned sea captain until we have been tested by every conceivable weather pattern.  So it is with life.  When we understand every experience as a test between the choices of anger or patience, resentment or compassion and failure or perseverance, we learn what all our obstacles are trying to teach us. 

Help us, Lord, to learn that love is a contact sport, not just a cluster of more refined attitudes.  Many people have attitudes that bind them to their earthly experiences while others of us have learned to serve others by the spirit of our living.  When your light shines through us, darkness flees.  When your mercy shines through us, others experience our understanding.  When your compassion shines through us, others understand that we have not judged them.  Help us to live with the same spirit Jesus did by becoming a signpost that points to the potential that is in all people. We pray these thoughts through the loving spirit of Jesus, the Christ, who taught us to say when we pray . . .