Following the miracle feeding of the five thousand in Matthew 14, Jesus sends his disciples across the Sea of Galilee while he remains behind to pray. Along the way, a substantial storm develops, buffeting the boat with wind and waves. In the night, the terrified disciples spot a figure walking towards them. After Jesus announces himself, Peter challenges his Lord to confirm his identity by asking Peter to walk towards him. Jesus does so and Peter climbs out of the boat, miraculously walking on top of the waves – until he averts his gaze to the terrors of the storm and plunges into the sea.
“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31).
Now stop and ask yourself – what did Jesus sound like in your head when you read that?
Did you hear, “How darest thou doubt my sovereign divinity as you traversed over the waves in a physically impossible feat that I mercifully orchestrated!”
Or do you hear something more along the lines of, “Bro… come on…you know that I got you. I’ve always got you.”
…What is the right way to read it?
You know what? I’m not sure if I can answer that question. As someone who has been diligently spending time attempting to enhance their theological knowledge, that it is a rather difficult thing for me to admit.
Think about it though. What was it like to have a conversation with God in His incarnate flesh?
After simply having Jesus over for dinner, Zacchaeus – the notorious tax collector in Jericho – vowed to sell off half his wealth to the poor and spend his life making restitutions for all his wrong doings. I think that’s a pretty clear testimony for the radical power Jesus commanded as a conversationalist.
And why not? Every time a particle of speech leaves his lips, the intentional word of God is spoken. That fact makes it vitally important to hear the correct emotion in his written voice – the joy, the sadness, the seriousness, the humor. Take, for instance, his employment of exaggerations and puns:
“Blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:24).
Translating the phrase into Aramaic – the common language that Jesus spoke – reveals an apparent word play between gnat (qamla) and camel (gamla). Taking this interpretation, one finds Jesus deliberately including a pun as he grills the Pharisees and scribes for being hypocrites.
When I read the rest of his speech, it is easy for me to visualize passionate condemnation as Jesus spits out labels such as “snakes” and “brood of vipers”. The scene takes on quite a different appearance, however, if I picture the crowd doubling over in laughter when Jesus delivers his one liners with a drum beat and cymbal crash. So… which is it? Perhaps it’s some of both.
Have you ever misread the intention behind a text or an email? That door swings wide open when the subtleties of conversation via tone of voice and facial expressions are removed from the picture. I have found, however, the better that I know a person, the easier it is for me to read a message as they intended it to be read. Otherwise, I am simply reading into it what it would mean if I had written it – and that is a byproduct of my own unique personality and life experiences.
In the same way, I feel it important to analyze what I am using as the basis while constructing the tone of Jesus’s voice in my head. Is it based off actual knowledge of him, or is it a reflection of myself and past authority figures in my life?
The question beckons me to shift my focus from the knowledge of God’s works towards an understanding of His character. This does not necessitate an abandonment of the analytical mind that God gave me. It means to apply it appropriately – never letting thirst for knowledge supersede my pursuit of a more intimate relationship with God.
My prayer is for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to reveal the ring of His divine attributes – love, mercy, grace, patience, holiness, justice, righteousness, jealousy, wrath – in all of the appropriate places in the written words of His voice. The same voice that declared blessings over children, taught his disciples day in and day out, declared prophecy, and spoke miracles into existence. The voice that spoke at parties, delved out forgiveness, scolded hypocritical religious thinking, and cried out from the cross. The voice of the “Good Shepherd” that calls his sheep by name – for whom he laid down his life.
– Nicolas C. Day
 Luke 19
 Pett, Peter. “Commentary on Matthew 23:24”. “Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible “. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/matthew-23.html. 2013.
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