I’m sure we all can remember the old Verizon commercial slogan, “Can you hear me now?” Recently, this same spokesman has made a comeback moving from Verizon to Sprint. He’s now trying to make the phrase, “Can you hear that?” just as popular. Listening is something that I struggle with. It’s something that I’ve always had an issue with which I’m sure was the cause of many headaches for my parents and teachers growing up. Poor signals and dropped calls aren’t the only things that can get in the way of us really hearing someone. There are times when we are distracted, times when we are only thinking of what we want to say, or times we just shut out others because we already know the answer. The list of excuses and reasons continues even beyond these things. This isn’t just an issue in our relationships with our friends, family, or spouses but these same issues show themselves in our relationship with Jesus. There are times when Jesus clearly tells us something in His Word but we don’t hear Him as we should because our minds are elsewhere. We aren’t the only ones to struggle in this way. When you look at the disciples and their interactions with Jesus you can see that they too had a hearing problem. This is why Jesus graciously repeats Himself, explains Himself, and even makes sure that He is heard again and again. Before Jesus’ ministry, God the Father audibly speaks from heaven telling all those around on of His most important instructions “This is my Son…Listen to Him!” If there is anyone whose words we should focus on and listen up to they are Jesus’. Through hearing His Word we are given faith, strength, and guidance for all of life.
When reading through the Gospels there are many times that when one of the disciples opens their mouths (mostly Peter) or someone else speaks up after a teaching from Jesus and you want to say, “Were you even listening!?” One particular time where multiple hearing problems are presented was during and after the meeting with the Rich Young Ruler. In Luke 18:18, a ruler comes to Jesus wanting to know how he may gain eternal life. The ruler is focused on his own goodness and his own efforts. He thinks there’s a way possible for him to reach heaven on his own. Jesus takes the young man to the Law in order to test his goodness. Still blind from his sin and clearly not hearing Jesus as he should, the ruler responds in verse 21, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” He believes he is good enough and that he’s done enough to earn his way to heaven. When Jesus engaged the young man in a conversation about goodness and sin, the young man wasn’t listening to a word that Jesus was saying because he had everything all figured out. There are times we don’t hear God’s Word on our sin as we should because we’re too preoccupied thinking, “They’re not that bad…they could be worse…or at least I don’t (fill in the blank)…” Any sin, whatever it may be, can hinder our relationship with Christ. The young ruler’s own perceived goodness plugged up his ears from hearing Jesus as he should.
Jesus responds to the ruler in verse 22, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess, and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.” We know that the young man left then, deeply sad because he was extremely rich. He didn’t hear anything about the gain that there is in following Jesus because his focus was on what he would lose. He was too distracted by all of his stuff that he couldn’t hear what Jesus was inviting him to; this was a grace-filled invitation both to eternal life and tremendous gain. If you continue on in the story you can see that Peter then has some hearing problems of his own. There are many times we can breeze through God’s Word and check it off our list for the day without really hearing what Jesus has to say to us. We can also miss what Jesus is calling us to because our focus is on ourselves. Just like we sing, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” we also need to “Turn our ears open Jesus” so that we hear His Word that leads to life!
Learning To Listen, Pastor Rudy