Whose Voice Are You Listening To? Reflections on John 18:33-37
"Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent."
The secret to how Jesus kept from being defined by the categories and expectations of others lies in a slight rewriting of Palmer's words:
"Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what God intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let God tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent."
Living by listening to God's vocational voice is what leads Jesus to this interview with Pilate. And isn't it interesting how Jesus manipulates Pilate? Pilate tries to force Jesus to state his identity in terms of public opinion. "Are you a king?" Jesus turns it back on him and replies, "You say that I am a king" (Mt. 27:11; Mk. 15:2; Lk. 23:3).
In a similar way, in John, Pilate asks, "So you are a king?" (Jn. 18:37). Jesus replies, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
Pilate asked him, "What is truth?"
I wonder whether, for the rest of his life, Pilate thought about Jesus and about that question. I wonder whether Pilate speculated on what Jesus would think of his thoughts, his actions, his life? I wonder if he wondered how things would have gone if he had been able to get others to listen to what his inner voice was telling him—this man is innocent; he has done nothing wrong.
Rather than let everyone's voice in the world tell us who we are and what we are to do, we are to listen to One who listened to God. His guidance is within us through the presence of the Holy Spirit, if we will listen. He is the Son of God. He is Christ the King.
Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Jossey Bass, 1999).
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.
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