A failure to listen is at the heart of sin.
Learning to listen again is the new heart Jesus gives us. Have you ever thought of the Christian life that way – as learning to listen again?
In our recent ‘A Home in the Mess’ series at Creek Road, we saw that the origins of the mess of this world go back all the way Adam and Eve’s failure to listen to God to the garden. This failure to listen to God was been repeated by Israel, by Israel’s Kings and by all of us.
We’ve not listened to God. Our hearts have turned away.
In Jesus, there is the invitation to listen again. Jesus entered the world not only as the Word of God, but also as the true listener to God. And as he redeems and restores us to God – bringing us home to God – he enables us to become the listeners we were meant to be. We can listen to God again.
Jesus restores in us a LISTENING HEART.
This idea of a listening heart will be crucial to our journey through Luke’s gospel in our ‘The Way Home’ series. In our first talk we saw how Mary was the better listener than Zechariah. Mary is the model listener for Luke’s audience (Luke 1:1-4) – for Theophilus and for us – listening to how the Old Testament story is fulfilled in Jesus, as Jesus himself emphasises after his death and resurrection:
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us. – Luke 1:1
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. – Luke 1:38
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” – Luke 24:44
As we follow Luke’s story, we’ll notice who else is listening well or listening badly. And Jesus will constantly emphasise listening from the heart:
Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? – Luke 5:22
But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. – Luke 8:15
They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” – Luke 24:32
If you’re interested in a good exploration of the idea of a listening heart – the listening heart Adam and Eve were meant to have – and that we have restored in Jesus, I recommend this article:
It’s quite technical at points – but if you’re brave, have a go at reading it and I’m sure you’ll find it thought-provoking… not only in how we can now listen to God in Jesus – but also in how we must listen to God together, in relationship, as a church. To whet your appetite, here is a highlights package I’ve put together from the article:
“I propose that Genesis 3 asserts that it is humanity’s drive to take possession of knowledge in isolation and without a listening heart that results in the collapse of the divine image.” p191
“Before the curtain draws on the stage of Genesis 3, we are told that though the man and the woman were nude (ʿărûmmîm; 2:25), the serpent was shrewd (ʿārûm; 3:1). The irony of this statement becomes apparent when the drama begins. While two, and even a third (Matt 18:20), were gathered at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they were not imaging God.” p195
“In the words of Henri Nouwen, “ever since the [fall] . . . we have been tempted to replace love with power. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people” p195
“In the attempt to take possession of the knowledge of good and evil for one’s self and on one’s own terms, the individual acts in isolation, and therefore, away from the freely self-limiting relationality of the divine image. Put simply, in isolation, humanity is incapable of imaging God.”p196
“The narrative arc of this discussion culminates in what might be the most explicit call to return to the garden in the Bible, namely, John’s depiction of the events that occurred outside Jesus’ tomb after the resurrection. As N. T. Wright and others have pointed out, the author of John intentionally alludes to the creation narratives in Genesis by introducing the scene with the report that it occurred “on the first day of the week” (John 20:1; see also v 19). In addition, the author includes the notice that Mary supposed Jesus was a gardener. For Wright, these details are “best interpreted” as marking “the start of God’s new creation” ….Coinciding with the trajectory of Genesis 2, this new creation comes to fruition with the restoration of the divine image in the encounter between Mary and the resurrected Jesus.” p197
“In the end, neither God, nor wisdom (as Ecclesiastes makes exceedingly clear [see, e.g., 1:16–18; 2:12–17; 7:16; 9:13–16]), nor Spirit, nor others, nor even the natural world may be possessed if God is to be imaged. Rather, they are to be encountered with a listening heart. As Bonhoeffer notes, the “first service that one owes to others in the community involves listening to them. . . . [T]he ministry of listening has been entrusted to them by the one who is indeed the great listener and in whose work they are to participate.” As opposed to the silent “listening” of Adam to which God refers in Genesis 3:17, we are called to “listen with the ears of God that we may speak the word of God” p198