In our family, we have some with a hearing problem. Some of the children actually hear instructions from an adult, and, in disobedience, chose to act as though they hear nothing. Some of the husbands have “selective hearing,” meaning they only hear what they want to hear. Ladies, it’s in the men’s manual. Then we have several who have a genuine loss of hearing, and need a hearing aid to assist them.
The apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ had a hearing problem too. Three times previous to Matthew 20:17-19, the apostles had been told of our Lord’s impending death. In Matthew 12:40, the Savior explained He was soon to be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 16:21 records, “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto His disciples, how that He must…suffer…and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” So, the effort to help them anticipate this was continual. Matthew 17:22-23, documents the Savior explaining the same upcoming sequence of events. Now in Matthew 20:17-19, we have a fourth instance of our Lord clearly explaining His upcoming betrayal, mocking, crucifixion, and subsequent resurrection. Yet with all these opportunities to grasp these events, Luke 18:31-34, clearly explains, “And they understood none of these things.” The primary way in which these facts were hidden from the apostles was through a self-imposed, selfish, human blindness to God’s revealed truth. These men did not want a dying Redeemer. They wanted a conquering King. They had been told, and were telling others, that the Millennial Kingdom was “at hand.” With an imminent expectation of this kingdom of rich blessing, they had “forsaken all” (Matthew 19:27) to follow Christ, and they were focused on what they were going to receive for their faith and self-denial. Beyond the personal rewards, they also eagerly awaited Israel’s suffering under Roman occupation being replaced with peace, prosperity, and prominence. These things made them dull of hearing when our Lord explained His coming death and resurrection.
While keeping Israel’s distinctive context in mind, we must also not miss an application for us today. Sometimes our spiritual receptiveness is no better. If we become to entangled “with the affairs of this life” (II Timothy 2:4), it will drown out our responsiveness to God’s Word, God’s will, and God’s Spirit. Instead, our disciplined focus must be to keep our eyes on “the things which are not seen…but (on) the things which are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:18).
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