The Tone Behind Jesus’ Words

“Bye forever”

“I’m dead”

If you know me, receiving a text like this isn’t confusing or alarming. My friends and family know these respectively mean “I don’t like what you just said” and “that is hilarious.” If I send one of these texts to a stranger, however, things get awkward. For someone who hasn’t experienced my personality, the sarcasm might not be assumed. But people close to me hear my tone even when it’s not audible. 

People who know me know the tone of my voice. 

Tone of voice is a game-changer, isn’t it? I am very capable of saying “that was so nice of you” in a tone that actually says you are the worst. Or how about the “it’s so good to see you” with an underlying I prayed you would relocate to Pluto. And we all have that friend who truly means to give a compliment but ends up saying you look horrible in every color but that one, stick to it. 

Tone of voice matters.

Let’s take that concept to the Bible. If you’re anything like me, Jesus’ words on paper sometimes appear confusing. What He says “out loud” in text has been known to leave me with an all I can picture is you calling me ‘woman’ and that kindof makes me want to punch you taste in my mouth. The words I “hear” when I am reading don’t always seem to line up with who the Bible says Jesus is; who HE says He is.

But the confusion is not buried in the actual words as much as it is in the tone behind them. The one “speaking” has an intended tone, but the message grasped is in the hands of the receiver (pun totally intended). 

Our brains automatically associate some kind of tone when processing words spoken on a page. Conversations come to life in voices we give the speakers. The problem with that is the opportunity for warped interpretation based on our preexisting beliefs, past experiences, or current circumstances. It is an understandable hurdle, but a dangerous one to settle for, especially when it comes to Jesus. 

When we choose Jesus’ tone of voice we project our own insecurities, issues or misconceptions onto Him, leaving us to digest a message that can be very different than the one He intended. 

How To Figure Out The Tone Jesus Uses

So how do we figure out what Jesus really “sounds” like? We clear the drawing board and go back to the concrete, pure, basic truth: Jesus came to earth, died a horrific death, and rose again just to save us. Period. What does that leave us with? A voice that matches the love a sacrifice like that proves. 

The tone of the cross

When we read Jesus’ words through the tone of the cross, conversations come to life in a way that quiets the noises of confusion and doubt. His dialect with the Samaritan woman in John 4 becomes saturated with a heart that says my sweet daughter, I know you are empty. I know you are hurting. I want to fix your broken heart. You don’t have to let men use you anymore, you are worth so much more than your body. Please let me in so you can experience what real love is. I want you to be free. His correction becomes an invitation to freedom. His power begins to look safe instead of scary. The view of His heart clears to reveal a love that is unconditionally on our side with no ulterior motives. 

We may not be able to travel back in time and “hear” what Jesus sounded like. But we do know He gave His life to save ours. And since actions speak louder than words anyways, we have all that we need in order to hear Him for who He is.

Instead of assuming, questioning, projecting, or altogether avoiding tones, let’s take the concrete truth we have and allow who our Savior is to be His voice.


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