Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ears to Hear

     Jesus often spoke with subtle reference to the Scriptures of the day, what we now know as the Old Testament.  In the oral tradition of the people of His time, the words of Moses, David, and the prophets would have been common knowledge for even the commonest Jew.  It was knowing these Scriptures that allowed the crowds to react to the humor, the bold irreverence, and the radical nature in Jesus' teaching.
     Because of their knowledge of our Old Testament, the people listening at Jesus' feet heard many things that don't occur to us as we read His words today.  They heard nuance.  They heard a refusal of the status quo.  They heard the fracture of pride as it came face-to-face with a word not of law but of love.  And they heard what we may consider harsh criticism.  All rooted in the way Jesus turned Torah into Truth.
     The words we need to look at, to find the story beneath the story, are those Jesus uttered again and again - that there are those who have ears but do not hear, eyes but do not see, mouths but do not speak.  (Matthew 13, for example.)  We read these words and take them at face value.  We take them as an explanation of why we find God unfathomable.  He's so far beyond us that we cannot understand His revelation, and we're content to stay a little uneducated because we see these words and think they are written for us.  That in these, Christ is saying, "Hey, not everybody gets Me.  It's cool.  Not everyone understands what I say; they aren't supposed to."
     Then we hide our faith behind this concept of step-by-step revelation and say that when God is beyond us, we simply aren't there yet and He doesn't expect us to be.  We fall into believing that God purposely speaks more than we can understand, knowing we don't get it, and that this is somehow to His glory.
     Like God's just talking to show off His wisdom.  Or speaking over our heads to a select, more "righteous" few.
     That's not God.  If He's speaking, He longs our ears to hear.  If He's showing up, He begs our eyes to see.  He wants us to know and hear and see and speak Him fully.  So what is all this nonsense about?
     These words - of ears that cannot hear, eyes that cannot see, mouths that cannot speak - would have been immediately known by those who heard Christ speak them.  They are words used over and over in the Old Testament (in Psalms and Jeremiah most prevalently) to describe the idols of the unfaithful people of Israel.  These were the words God used to mock their idols as powerless fabrications.
     The crowds around Jesus would have immediately heard that mocking.  They would have known that perhaps Christ was speaking these words not because He was purposely hiding some revelation from them but because He was pointing to something else - their tendancy to believe more in themselves or in the law than in the power and presence of God in front of them.  These people were so confident in their laws and their behavior and their knowledge that they were living as idols - as powerless fabrications of the idea of a god.  A God who was standing right there calling them out, calling them to love, though their ears could not hear Him nor could their eyes see Him.
     I don't know about you, but I don't want to miss out on one thing God is doing because I believe more in some powerless fabrication than in Him.  When He says that our eyes have not seen, let's open them wide and plead, "Show us, Lord!"  When He says our ears have not heard, let's beg Him, "Speak again!  I want to hear You!"  And let's get out of our way and sacrifice our idols - ourselves - for the chance to see, hear, and taste of God.
     Because He's not trying to speak over our heads; He's speaking straight to our hearts.

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