Is your voice recognition turned on? – Saturday, 2nd Week of Easter – Acts 6:1-7/ John 6:16-21
Some time ago I wrote an article on ‘do we know that God is really speaking to us?’ The Gospel of John addresses this topic in both direct and subtle ways. Jesus is emphatic when he says in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” It is this voice that Mary of Magdala recognized at the Easter Garden when Christ called her by name and she, recognizing his voice calls out to him, “Rabboni.” Till this point of time, she thinks he is the gardener!
The text of today has Jesus encountering the disciples in a storm on the lake of Galilee and like Mary, they too are terrified, for they think he is a ghost until he speaks to them and they recognize his voice when he says, “It is I, do not be afraid.”
While we hear the comforting voice of God and recognize it, we also must confess to hearing the discomforting voice of God. Genesis 3: 8 speaking of the sin of Adam and Eve says, ‘then they heard the voice of the God walking in the garden toward evening.’ They knew they had done wrong and they heard it in the voice of God. Yet there are those who do not want to hear or recognize His voice no matter what the tone of his voice may be; they simply choose to reject it. As Jesus told Pontius Pilate, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
We live in a world of voice recognition. Voice or speaker recognition is the ability of a machine or program to receive and interpret dictation or to understand and perform spoken commands. If a machine is clever enough to recognize our voice and obey it then how much more do we owe God when he desires us to hear his voice and obey it.
So, what’s with voice recognition and this reflection? The end of chapter four finds Jesus in Galilee. Chapter five moves to Jerusalem. Chapter six (from where our text is taken) sees Jesus move back to Galilee. In chapter seven Jesus will return to Jerusalem. It is in chapter six that we are told the disciples get into a boat row for about three or four miles. Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus made or ‘compelled’ (anankazo) His disciples to get into the boat (Mark 6:45). Perhaps he saw that they were being infected with the crowd’s excitement.”
We are told that it was dark. John uses “dark” or “darkness” nine times in his gospel.
In John’s Gospel, darkness is more than the absence of physical light, it signals evil or danger. It is now dark, and Jesus is absent. Jesus has not yet come to them when the sea becomes rough and a strong wind begins to blow. There is no indication yet that the disciples are in danger but what is clear is that their journey will not be easy. It is in this unsettling moment that they see Jesus, walking on the sea and coming near the boat and it is now that they were terrified (v. 19). The Synoptic Gospels tell us that the disciples are afraid because they think that Jesus is a ghost (Matthew 14:26; Mark 6:49; Luke 24:37).
The sea of Galilee is 13 km east to west and about 21 km north to south. The point being made here is that the disciples are somewhere in the middle of the lake and the middle of a potential storm. They have rowed a considerable distance in the storm, but have a considerable distance left to go. Their group includes experienced fishermen who have surely been on the lake during storms. Yet it is not the storm that they are afraid of but Jesus who they think is a ghost. So many fears we face are not the ones that surround us but the ones we create in our head.
It is in the storm that Jesus speaks, “do not be afraid, it is I,” Here on the chaos of these troubled waters, Jesus is revealing himself on two levels. He is the leader whom the disciples have been following, but he is also the presence of God in their midst. He comes to help them in their distress as he does for us. Mercifully, they recognize his voice and invite him into the boat and “immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going.” The Gospel does not mention that the storm has subsided but simply that once they recognized his voice in the storm and invited him in, he saw them to their destination. That’s a lesson for us to learn.
Jesus has spoken, is speaking, and will continue to speak in and to our modern world. We can be sure of that. The question is not “are people hearing the voice of Jesus today?” that is a given. The question should be, “How are people hearing the voice of Jesus today; for humankind has itchy ears! We know that Jesus has a life-giving voice. He has already proclaimed in John 5:25, “Truly I tell you, the hour is coming and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. Our Lord has a life-giving voice but all that is ours only if our voice recognition has been turned on.