There is a phrase Jesus was fond of saying that I have always found somewhat confusing. What makes the phrase so confusing to me is that it is so obvious a statement that no one would ever disagree with it. It is as obvious as saying, ‘water is wet.’ The famous phrase I am referring to is the prophetically clairvoyant claim “Whoever has ears, let them hear” which Jesus was known to utter, particularly after telling a parable. Why would Jesus waste his breath saying something so obvious? Surely everyone knows how exceedingly difficult it is to hear without ears!
But, then again, it also seems at times to be exceedingly difficult to hear WITH ears. Sometimes it seems that people hear what they expect to hear or want to hear rather than what was actually said. I remember a conversation between an engaged couple I was meeting with where she said, “I would really like it if you would plan out our dates a little bit more. That would make me feel like you think about me and care about what I like to do.” And her fiancee responded, “So you are saying you want to go on more dates because you are bored when we stay home and rent a movie.” The young man heard something totally different than what his fiancee had just finished saying not seconds before! Unfortunately this happens in preaching too. (Well, it happens to my sermons. I’m sure it never happens to the other authors of this blog!) After a sermon someone will approach me and say, “Pastor thank you for the sermon. I needed to hear how I should tithe faithfully.” I stammer out an appropriate reply while thinking, “Huh? The sermon was about sabbath keeping!”
Is it possible that Jesus’ statement towards the obvious nature of hearing is in fact a not so obvious expose’ on human nature?
Perhaps if we consider another sense, that of sight, Jesus’ strangely obvious statement will be made clear.
Last spring I took a group of North Americans to the Dominican Republic on a “Vision Trip.” As we drove through country side all we saw everywhere was abject poverty. Little children playing with garbage as toys. Young men with no hope for work loitering in the shade. Pregnant teens picking rocks out of piles of rice – dinner. Heaps of garbage on the street corners. Litter fluttering everywhere in the Caribbean breeze. This is all that we saw. But then we passed a sight that we remember clearly. A little old, bent Dominican woman standing in front of her hut of sticks and mud. She was sweeping. Sweeping the dirt and rocks in front of her home. The group was shocked that someone would bother cleaning such a dirty and poor atmosphere. I mean, sweeping rocks?! What is the point?
We North Americans saw an old lady pointlessly sweeping rocks. But that little old lady didn’t see rocks and dirt, she saw her doorstep. She saw a landscaped yard worthwhile keeping clean of leaves, litter and pebbles. I’m sure in her eyes, surrounded by the affliction of poverty, her doorstep was a beautiful thing.
Christian graphic designer, Jim LePage, has entitled this print on the left “Revolting Beauty.” The hideous cross is the source what is good, right and beautiful. The Apostle Paul said that the cross is a stumbling block, utter foolishness to those who cannot believe, or see beauty in something so hideous.
Perhaps this is what Jesus means when he says, “Let those who have ears hear.” Or, “Let those who have eyes see.” There is more to the story than what meets the eye or tickles the ear. There is a truth that lies deeper than what the senses can perceive. Or as CS Lewis put it in his Chronicles of Narnia, “There is a deeper and older magic at work.” This world filled with agony is also a world filled with God. God is not only found in the big, the great and the wonderful. Sometimes He is most apparent in the cracks and seams of life, in the last place we would ever dream the King of Creation would dwell. Can we see it? Do we have the ears to hear it?
Is it possible that the cross is more than two pieces of wood on a hill upon which Christ died, but is in fact also a hideous symbol of the very world itself? That this world is revolting thing made beautiful by the Son of God who flung himself upon it? Is our picture of God big enough that we can find him even in the poverty of Calcutta or the massacres of Syria or the cancer of grandma? Because, he is there. Let those who have ears hear.