Rom.10:17 – So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
Have you ever experienced this? You make a straightforward statement, the meaning and intention of which is crystal clear. In the distance from your mouth to the ear of the hearer, both the intention and the meaning become something entirely different. How is that to be accounted for?
Despite the fact that thirty years ago I became absolutely fascinated with this story, I have never preached a message based upon it. That means that the incubation period for this message has been thirty years. The implications of that in relation to the length of this message could be troubling.
What fascinated me thirty years ago was the diversity of opinion with respect to the same event. How do we account for that? Should we be concerned with it? Are there lessons we need to take way from this? Are there warnings we need to regard here?
I will attempt to structure my thoughts around this theme: ‘God is speaking – What are you hearing?’
Professional counsellors tell us that the number one issue in relationship problems is a breakdown of communication. The more I understand the complexities of the soul of man, the more I understand the challenges of communication. We know that the two fundamental components of communication are speaking and hearing - or to broaden that a bit – there is a source of sound and a receiver of that sound.
Have you ever experienced this? You make a straightforward statement, the meaning and intention of which is crystal clear. In the distance from your mouth to the ear of the hearer, both the intention and the meaning become something entirely different. How is that to be accounted for? I can’t deal with that in this message, but I will suggest in passing that everything spoken passes through the filters within the soul of the one speaking. And then it enters via the ears into the soul of the hearer and begins the process of passing through all the filters there. And no two souls have exactly the same set of filters.
Be that as it may, the fact is what is spoken in this pulpit, and what is heard in the chairs in front of me, are two different issues. I am responsible and will be held accountable for my articulations. And you are responsible and will give an account for what you hear.
In John chapter 12 we have come down to the last few days of the pre-resurrection life of Christ; we are just hours from the cross. To really appreciate this event we need to get some sense of the atmosphere in which it unfolded. And let me just say, that atmosphere was anything but positive. It was heavy, thick and syrupy. You could cut the tension with a knife. Public opinion had reached a feverish pitch; an all time high. The lines were clearly drawn. People were polarised in their view of Christ. You were for Him or against Him; on one side or the other. The middle ground (the grey area) had been taken away.
In this atmosphere of tension, stress and hostility two pivotal events take place. At verse 28we find a four word prayer by Christ: “Father, glorify Your name.” The first thing to see is that His environment was not dictating the nature of His prayer. It was His intimacy with the Father that shaped His petition. Out of that intimacy He prayed exactly and only what was in the heart of the Father.
I spoke last Sunday concerning the dangers of an environmental-based faith. The same issue applies to prayer. Do my prayers simply articulate my interpretation of the environment, or do they reflect revelation born out of intimacy with the Father through, by and in the Holy Ghost?
The second pivotal event also recorded in verse 28 is the instant response of the Father God to the four word prayer of Christ. ‘Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”‘
I want to close this out as quickly as I can, in an effort to avoid missing the main point due to too many words. That main point is expressed in the theme: ‘God is speaking – What are you hearing?’
The event recorded in John 12 was a literal happening. It was not mystical, abstract, symbolic or secret code. The almighty God literally spoke words from the heavens into a time / space, physical setting. And that’s the first thing we have to settle this morning – God is a speaking God. God is articulate. The forms and ways and means of His speaking are without number, but He does speak directly into our time/space world. He speaks into the events and affairs of men.
There were three such occasions in the life of Christ during the days of His flesh: His baptism, His transfiguration and on this occasion just before the cross. If you understand these three occasions within the whole of the life of Christ, it becomes clear that these weremoments of critical change within the outworking of the purposes of God within His life. And that’s the point – critical change is precipitated by the hearing of the Father’s voice.
Let me move now to the issue of hearing. Verse 29 says; ‘So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it…’ First thing to note is that they all heard it. Secondly, they all heard the same thing because there was only one thing to hear: the speaking voice of the Father God – the same time, the same event, the same God, the same words.
But now we go to this second critical part of our theme: What are you hearing? Or in the context of John 12 – What did they hear?
Vs.29: Some were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” And let me just add that although the scripture does not say so, it is highly possible there were many other views of what had happened. I will come back to this issue in just a moment, but first let me ask this question: How important was this moment of the speaking voice of God; and how important was it to hear correctly?
This is perhaps the most profound detail in the story. Vs.30:“This voice has not come for my sake, but for your sakes.” This was not about some need for personal confirmation on the part of Christ so that He would know who He was. This was about bringing revelation to the crowd around Him concerning who He was. I don’t know how to say this without sounding negative. But in essences Christ is telling them that this whole experience was designed for their benefit; that with the voice and word of the Father there opened unto them an incredible opportunity. And they were teetering on the brink of walking away from it all, carrying in their souls their private interpretations of what happened.
In light of this the opening words of verse 31 take on new meaning. “Now judgement is upon this world…” The first application of that judgement was right there at that moment in that crowd. And what we learn is that the voice of God always brings judgement into a setting.By judgement I mean exposure – the revealing of what is. And here is the critical point: the revelation of where that crowd was was expressed in the various interpretations they gave to the voice of the Father – interpretations of what they heard.
God is speaking; what are you hearing? In the end I don’t really know what you are hearing, nor do you know what I am hearing. However, on the basis of verse 34 I can tell you what one of the key factors is in determining what we hear when God speaks. At verse 32 Jesus gives to them the very core of this whole redemptive scheme: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” And then we read: But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.
Here’s the point: Vs.34: The crowd then answered Him, “We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” In other words it can’t be You because You just acknowledged You are going to die.
That day the voice of the Father God speaking into that crowd gave them the opportunity to know the true identity of the true Christ who stood right there among them. By the time they filtered what they heard through their set interpretations of the Old Testament concerning Christ, they walked away denying the Christ in their midst, while asking each other – “Did you hear that clap of thunder?” What we know about the Bible very often keeps us from hearingthe word of God.
‘God is speaking – What are you hearing?’ For the most part what we hear is determined by our position in relation to the speaker. And by position I do not mean physical position butrelational intimacy.
Here is how that day ended: Vs.37:But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. Join that with this: Rom.10:17 – So faith comes fromhearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.