Call – Opelika-Auburn News
Listening with the ears of the heart
People use different techniques to get attention. The famous words
of Shakespeare come to mind: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”
A presiding officer at a head table may tap on a glass or clap his
hands to get attention. A football coach may say to his players during a
scrimmage, “Listen up!”
A frustrated wife may speak sharply to the husband who has buried
himself in a newspaper, “You have not heard a word I have said; will you put
that paper down and listen to me?”
Jesus used subtle humor to get the attention of his audience. On
one occasion when speaking to a crowd about John the Baptist, Jesus said, “He
who has ears, let him hear.” People surely smiled. Everyone has ears.
But not everyone “uses” their ears. Some people do not listen. We
explain that by saying that the words of the speaker “went in one ear and out
the other.” That happens to all of us unless we pay careful attention to the
Jesus was simply reminding
his listeners that they must be intentional about listening in order to comprehend
what they hear.
Earlier translations of this phrase used by Jesus are not as clear
as recent ones. The King James, for example, has Jesus say, “Who hath ears to
hear, let him hear.”
Goodspeed improved on it: “Let
him who has ears listen!” The NRSV improved on Goodspeed:
“Let anyone with ears listen!” The Living Bible Translation offers the clearest
version yet: “Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand!"
The implication of Jesus is that listening
should lead to understanding and understanding to action. Hearing must be
translated into deeds. Understanding must result in obedience. To listen and
understand, and fail to act in obedience, is not to have heard at all.
Jesus’ reference to ears was his way of
saying, “Hey, listen up now, this is important!” In a similar way a writer may use a bold font for a
word or end a sentence with an exclamation point (or a “squealer”).
The phrase about listening reappears in
the Book of Revelation when Christ speaks to the seven churches: “Anyone
who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the
Spirit is saying to the churches” (Living Bible). This reinforces the idea that
the risen Christ in John’s Revelation is the same Christ who spoke in the
parables recorded in the Gospels.
The importance of listening is stressed
in the biblical story of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. There Moses and
Elijah appeared with Jesus to confirm his role as the Messiah. Jesus’
countenance was transfigured with divine glory. But observe what God said:
“This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”
Jesus urged the people and the
disciples to listen to what he said and God commands us to listen to Jesus. And
listening to Jesus must be important because the Bible says he is the “Word” of
God made flesh! An old hymn, “How Firm a Foundation,” raises the ultimate
question: “What more can he say?”
internal voice is, of course, never easy. A multitude of
other “voices” are clamoring for our attention. None of us ever really “hears”
Jesus until we intentionally shut out other noises and give him a chance to be
heard in the silence of our souls.
Many things can become like wax in our
ears which makes us deaf to the voice of Jesus. We can become too busy to
listen to God. We can get so focused on the body that we have no time for the
We may even become obstinate and like a
child put our fingers in our ears to keep from hearing what Jesus is saying to
us. A friend of mine refuses to go to church for fear God will speak to him.
The danger in refusing to listen is
that we may eventually lose the capacity to hear the one voice to which we
should pay attention. When the ears become atrophied, the soul is not far
At the last, when God draws the curtain
upon the stage of time, it is certain that we will hear his voice. There will
be no wax in our ears then. Either
we will hear him say, “Depart from me, I never knew you;” or we will hear him
say, “Welcome home, good and faithful servant.”
When Jesus walked the dusty roads of
Nazareth his disciples were “hard of hearing.” We are much like them.
Eventually, however, those first century disciples listened and understood
Jesus with the ears of their hearts. Then they acted in obedience and the Jesus
Movement spread throughout the world.
If you will pause now and listen
closely, really listen, you may hear his quiet inner voice say again, “Let
anyone with ears listen!” But you can only hear him by listening with the ears
of your heart. + + +