Whoever has ears

This blog is inspired by the episode above.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

This seems like an odd suggestion by Jesus; after all, to know he said this, they’d have to hear him.  Since we know Jesus is not careless with his words, it’s clear he means more than ordinary hearing.

Jesus said this often, typically among crowds of people who were actively listening to his words; Jesus knew they were hearing him without hearing him:

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.”
Matthew 13:14

It is one thing for sound to enter your ear canal; it’s an entirely different thing for you to comprehend the depth of the message.  It’s not uncommon for my kids to “hear” me, only to find my words were not actually understood and retained; my advice or instruction amounted to little, because hearing without understanding and response has no lasting value.  As James 1:22-25 puts it:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Jesus knows this reality about human nature — adults and kids alike — so he urges us “whoever has ears, let them hear.”  He was essentially saying, “The fact you are hearing me say this means you have the capacity to hear; I want to invite you to really pay attention to what you’re hearing.”

The degrees of hearing could play out like this:

  • “Yeah, I heard Jesus, he said some stuff.”
  • “Yeah, I heard Jesus, he told a story about a farmer.”
  • “Yeah, I heard Jesus, he told a story about a farmer, but I feel like it means something more.”

 

They all heard the same words, but engaged differently.  That said, every one of them struggled to fully grasp his words, because he revealed Truths counter to their understanding of reality:

Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:
“I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”
Matthew 13:34-35

Jesus was uttering things that had been hidden from the very beginning; in a way, you can’t blame the crowd for missing it.  However, some sensed there was something important about Jesus and his words, and they pressed in deeper:

Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
Matthew 13:36

We have the same opportunity today — whether it be something we read in scripture, hear in prayer, or receive from someone entrusted with Truth — though we too can respond similar to the crowds:

  • “Yeah, I looked at the Bible today, I forget what though.”
  • “Yeah, I looked at the Bible today, it was a passage about love.”
  • “Yeah, I looked at the Bible today, it was a passage about love, but I feel like it means something more.”

When we read, pray, or listen, we are given glimpses into “things hidden since the creation of the world”; “truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (Matthew 13:17)  If we think we get it, we may not actually get it, because we’re talking about the “mysteries of the Kingdom of God” which have been beyond understanding for all of human history.  Jesus invites us to not just listen, but really hear what is being said.

How do we do this, though, when it is beyond our comprehension and so easy to miss?

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.  No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.  None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—

these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
1 Corinthians 2:6-10

The Spirit is how we can have “ears to hear.”

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
John 16:12-15

Jesus even implies this with Peter in Matthew 16:17: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”  He knew that mere humans engaged his and scriptures words as mere words, and so missed the deeper reality, but the Spirit could intercede and reveal the unseen and unheard.  That Spirit exists for us, ready to be a part of our Bible studies, prayers, and sermons.  Our invitation is to acknowledge we need him, and choose to have “ears to hear.”

What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:12-16

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