Selective Hearing

“Let these words sink down into your ears.” Luke 9:44

It is interesting to observe what people say and how they express their words when they are trying to communicate something important to someone who seems less than interested. This is especially so when a parent is endeavouring to affect the behaviour of their child. The sentences used for this purpose are numerous but it is unlikely that we will hear the one quoted above.

Any married woman knows that her husband has selective hearing. The disciples were all men so wives will accept it as normal that the disciples were selective in what they heard from Jesus. However, men may well complain that their wives can also be selective at times. We are all descendants of Adam and Eve just like the disciples.

Jesus gave about three years to the training of the disciples. Some things are recorded in the Bible for us to read, but there was much more that is not. Additionally there are some things that Jesus repeated several times that we know of. The Gospels record that on three separate occasions Jesus plainly told His disciples that He would suffer at the hands of Israel’s leaders, would die and rise again. He also alluded to this on other occasions. It is hard to imagine that the disciples didn’t pick up on it – but they didn’t. Why not?

Firstly, they didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about because they didn’t believe that what He was saying could be taken literally. Jesus was Israel’s Messiah, their King, and Deity in human form; no way could He possibly suffer or die. Peter, James and John had just seen Him in His glory speaking with Moses and Elijah – so surely He was about to establish His earthly kingdom on David’s throne in Jerusalem!

Secondly, they didn’t understand because their eyes were on something more self-centred. Ignoring what Jesus had just told them they began to dispute among themselves as to their position in His earthly kingdom (v 46).

On the Mount the Father had exhorted the disciples to “Hear Him.” He wanted them to listen to Jesus, not what they had heard from the scribes. But they did not heed the words of the Father. In the verse quoted above Jesus emphasises again that the disciples take notice of what He was saying but to little or no avail.

We can also suffer from selective hearing of Jesus’ words and it will take the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit to bring us to the place where we will hear what Jesus is saying to us. We must never think we know it all – but, alas, so many Christians do just that, or don’t mind that they are doing it without realising that they are aiding their selective hearing. Quite likely we all suffer from this aspect of the fallen nature in varying degrees. No wonder Jesus often said, “He who has an ear, let him hear …” or something similar. We must constantly be asking the Holy Spirit to overcome the spiritual selective deafness in us.

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