Updated: Mar 26, 2021
Again. Once again, our mischievous three year old grabs his older brother’s beloved lego creation. It doesn’t matter how many times we tell him it’s not his to play with, he needs a reminder... again. By child three, we’ve made it a habit to get on their level when we really need them to listen. I like to ask, “Where are Mommy’s eyes?” and I am answered by chubby toddler fingers waving back and forth between my eyes. “Perfect,” I think, “I have your attention.” This practice has a way of stopping our kids in the middle of their many distractions and giving them the ability to hear what we’re going to say. It’s not magic, and doesn’t always work, but it’s a practice that has a better track record in our house than my other go-to—raising my voice. :)
Jesus thought so too. “Take care then how you hear...” Jesus shares with His disciples. How we hear matters. This phrase follows a parable of Jesus about seeds and soil. You can check it out for yourself in Luke 8:4-15. Jesus answers the question lingering in our minds, “How then are we supposed to hear?” in the following exchange:
“Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.’ But he answered them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’” Luke 8:19-21 ESV
Jesus calls family those who hear His word and do it. The story moves forward and we see something incredible. Jesus and His disciples are caught up in a storm and Jesus “rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm” (Luke 8:24 ESV). Nature hears and does. In the next vignette, we see a man possessed by a legion of demons; the demons begged Jesus to send them into a herd of pigs. The text tells us that Jesus “gave them permission” and the demons exited the man at His word (Luke 8:32-33 ESV). The dark forces around us hear and do. Next we Jesus on His way to heal Jairus’ sick daughter. On the way, a desperate woman who had been bleeding for twelve years touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, and immediately the bleeding ceased. Jesus did not necessarily speak in this moment of healing, but upon perceiving that power had left Him (Luke 8:46), He asked to know who had touched Him. Rather than a sharp word, He said to this woman:
“And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’” Luke 8:48 ESV
Jesus had authority over disease, and offered this desperate woman peace in exchange for her desperation. Finally, Jesus was notified that He needn’t bother; Jairus’ daughter had died during His exchanged with the bleeding woman. Jesus’ words in response was to let go of fear, and believe. Jesus was not done showing us His voice had power over nature, and darkness, and disease.
“But taking her by the hand he called, saying, ‘Child, arise.’ And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat.” Luke 8:54-55 ESV
Even death hears and does. Following Jesus along for this day shows us some incredible truths. Nature, darkness, disease and death are under Jesus’ authority. When they hear the sound of His voice, their response is obedience. Yet Jesus’ parable to us showcases four different ways we respond to hearing His voice.
We hear and then it’s immediately taken away by the Evil One.
We hear and there is no substance in which the Word can grow.
We hear and the Word is so choked out by the “cares and riches and pleasures of life” that their fruit doesn’t mature (Luke 8:14).
We hear and “hold fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). Good soil hears and obeys.
Why do we not hear and respond in obedience like the winds and waves and disease and darkness? How about this sucker punch from Jesus’ brother, James:
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.” James 1:19-24 NLT, emphasis mine
Don’t just listen, but do. When we fail to, it’s as ridiculous as forgetting what our reflection looks like in the mirror. James is addressing our hearts. Am I quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger? Yes, our understanding of Scripture and the voice of God has implications on the world around us, but it starts with us first. We have to start with us. God longs for our ears to connect to our hearts and minds and then to our hands and feet.
God longs for our ears to connect to our hearts and minds and then to our hands and feet.
James has more to say. We look around at the world today and it makes us angry, right? Hunger, disease, death, people we love caught in darkness—addiction, depression and anxiety. James says that our anger does not make us right with God. We are free to feel the anger, but we have to look inward. We are selfish people. We want someone else to be the one to help the hungry, diseased, and oppressed. “Not my problem;” we say in our hearts, “the problems are too big for me to help anyway, so why even bother?
James goes further to encourage us to abandon the evil within our hearts and cling instead to the word God has planted there. Is it any surprise that James—Jesus’ brother who was turned away that day off the shore of the Sea of Galilee—then writes about the planting of God’s word and the power of being a people who hear but fail to do? Jesus’ parable began with soil. He encouraged His listeners to take care how they hear, and then we see how forces of nature hear the voice of the Savior. They respond in obedience.
May we see the gentle-leading of our Savior, as He gets down on His knees and matches our eye level. May we grasp His care as He gives us His Word, and weaves these truths throughout like treasures we uncover with persistence and care. May we catch His Fatherly care as He begs us to examine our hearts and minds and motives and actions, and may we respond like nature did.
May we, angry and tumultuous like the winds and the waves, be stilled by the calming voice of our Savior. May we, dark and menacing like the legion of demons, be cast into glorious light at the permission of our Savior. May we, as desperate and all-consuming as disease, flee in the mere touch of our Savior’s clothing. And may we, final and terrible like death, even find life and spirit’s renewal at the beckoning of our Savior to rise and eat.