Those with Ears

In Matthew 11:15, Jesus says,~He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (ESV) This tells us Jesus demands a response. If you have ears, you are included. This week, we are going to consider the three different responses people have to Jesus as we look at the topic of people who have ears.

The first group ate the Castigate (Matthew 11:16-19). By definition, it is to reprimand one severely. Do you know anyone who always seems to respond critically, even raising their voice to be emphatic? When they speak, it’s like a reprimand. They seem to know better than everyone else and these individuals are faultfinders. No matter what Jesus says or how many miracles He performs, many people are still so critical. Therefore, Jesus looks to his audience, asks what should we compare His generation to. Almost in the same breath, He answers His own question. Matthew 11:16~To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: (ESV) Like kids playing in the park. 

Listen, there is a big difference between being childish and being childlike. The Bible never says be childish. Though Jesus does teach us that we are to possess faith like a child. Matthew 18:2-3~He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And said: Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (NIV) This does not mean that we are to be childish. The point is, faith is meant to be simple, and not calculus. Matthew 19:14~Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (NIV) 

Because Jesus and John’s generation is being childish, or immature, they are disobedient. Like a spoiled willful child, Jesus says in Matthew 11:16-17~To what can I compare this generation? They are like children…calling out to others: We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn. (ESV) As a parent or grandparent, do you remember trying music, games, even new stuff and the attitude returned was just simply awful. I know Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:1~To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: (KJV) But I don’t remember this on the list.

Children of that day often played wedding and funeral games. It’s not as bad as it sounds. You may remember playing Red Rover, a game in which you ask a different king to send you a soldier, Blindman’s bluff, or Ghost in the graveyard. Moreover, you probably never consider those nursery rhymes where tails were cut off, babies fall out of breaking trees or a really catchy one about the bubonic plague, all because you have a pocket full of posies. In Jesus’ day, weddings and funerals were the two major social events of their culture. The children would mimic adults by performing mock weddings and funerals. In your adolescence, Prince got in on the action when you were searching for Purple Rain. Saying Dearly beloved…we have gathered…to get through this thing called life. I bet the beat of that song let you get crazy. 

Why not take a page from both our text and our youth and just go crazy as you worship the Lord today. Put on that toe-tapping music and worship the Lord while no one is looking. I bet He gets right in there with you. May the Lord bless you today with His presence.



Listen

Have you ever attempted to work on your listening? If there is an area in our spiritual or even physical lives that we could all work on, it is in our listening skills. Learning how better to listen to God and others. Take John, he was a key player in paving the way for Jesus Christ. Therefore, Jesus says in Matthew 11:12~From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (ESV) What Jesus is telling them is that He is the King, the most notable representative of the Kingdom of God. He is present with power, and within a week they will see Him transfigured. Jesus reveals to them in glory, a demonstration of the power of God’s Kingdom. 

Even without the glory, what stood among them was still the Kingdom of God. Because He is the King of all kings, the central figure of God’s Kingdom, wherever He went, the Kingdom was present. In the book of Acts, the message of the Kingdom is inextricably tied to the central person, in that Kingdom who is Jesus Christ. Acts 8:12~But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (NIV) (Acts 19:8-10, 28:23) Let’s take just a moment to knit this to one of my favorite passages, John 15. Where the King abides in any person or where a person is in Christ, the Kingdom is also present. 

This principle is to be applied to Matthew 11:12~From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (ESV) Even until today, Christ and those in whom He dwells suffer violence: physical/ verbal assault, affliction, constraint, oppression, and perhaps even martyrdom. Go read Hebrews 11:32-40. This world’s forceful and self-willed people seize that Kingdom as they would a fortified city, through opposing its citizens in some way.

This means the kingdom of heaven has been advancing, but violent people are attacking it. Herod Antipas is a violent man and he will take John’s head and will come also for Christ. Matthew 11:13-15~For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him (her) hear. (ESV)

Have you heard the King and accepted His Kingdom? Jesus knows despite the ministry of John the Baptist and even His own miracles, most people will not believe. That statement is so important Jesus repeats it fourteen more times in the New Testament (Matthew 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23: Luke 8:8, 14:35; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22, and 13:9). It means only those willing to hear with an open mind and heart can understand.

Refining one’s hearing includes listening carefully to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He brings scriptures to our minds when we have doubts. A powerful favorite is found in Proverbs 3:5-6~Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (NIV) 

Take time today (and every day) to acknowledge God. Because this passage begins by telling us to trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and not to trust in our own understanding. Learn how to refine your listening skills. Today, after you have praised the Lord, read His holy word and prayed about all that has been brought to mind, listen. Be still and know the He is God, as you listen to what He has to say. Take time to practice Lectio Divina—Divinely Listening or Listening to the Divine.



Trust the process

After saying of those born of women, none is greater than John, Jesus says, in Matthew 11:11~Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (ESV) John the Baptist is a spiritual giant, but his role was unique in human history. No one will ever again do what he did. However, in the kingdom of heaven, the most insignificant person will be greater. John is only an announcer of the coming kingdom, brought to us by the advent of our Lord. Why tell us this? Probably because believers who live after the Cross can give a more profound explanation of Jesus than John could since he was martyred before the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. 

John never saw Jesus’ miracles because he was imprisoned early in Jesus’ ministry. While the least of Jesus’ followers were actually seeing His miracles, and hearing the testimonies of lives changed. John was in a damp, dark, dismal dungeon. In His sovereignty. God did not allow John to be a participant in or even be an eyewitness to Jesus’ miracles. John had to take it all on faith. That is why we talk so much about faith because not many have seen the blind eyes opened, the deaf hear, or the withered made whole. Jesus said in John 20:29~Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (NIV) The great commendation of John the Baptist was, that God owned his ministry, and made it wonderfully successful.

God always has a plan, He always has a purpose. John is an example of what God says in Isaiah 55:9~As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (NIV) Life must be lived, by faith. So I ask again, What do you See and Hear? How has it impacted your life? Jesus understands our doubts, and so He draws our attention to reflect on the faithful who have served God in so many ways. I am so grateful that God took the time to fashion a work of grace for each of us to participate in doing good for the Kingdom of God. What will you do today, for the Lord?