Author: Charles Hegwood
As a parent I can tell you there is a difference between your child hearing you and listening to you. There is a difference between your child acknowledging you spoke and understanding what you said requires response. I have also been that child at some point in my life. In Luke 8:1-21 Jesus is telling the crowd and his disciples the difference between hearing and listening. Luke is telling his reader there is a difference between acknowledging Jesus spoke and understanding that Jesus’ words require a response. The one who hears and does what Jesus commands is a true follower of Jesus and in the family of God. We see the profile of a true disciple lived out in three truths found in Luke 8:1-21.
Hearing the Word
First, a disciple who understands God’s word grows and bears spiritual fruit. Jesus told the famous parable of the Sower starting in verse 4 and concluded in verse 8 with the phrase, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” That phrase becomes the main idea for this section. The disciples hear but do not understand so they ask for clarification. Jesus explains the parable to them in detail. When Jesus concludes the parable he again tells them that the one who produces fruit is the one that hears God’s Word and clings to it. The words that Jesus spoke and the lessons that Jesus taught were not to go in one ear and out the other. His words require response. A proper response to the gospel is to hold fast to it and in doing so it will bear spiritual fruit. Hold on to the Word of God.
The Light and the Word
The second truth is that the person who hears and understands God’s Word is given the spiritual blessing of knowing God deeply. Jesus now tells a parable about a lamp. He concluded this parable with the phrase in verse 18, “Be careful then how you hear.” This should strike the reader as odd. After all, Jesus just finished talking about a lamp. Should we not be careful how we see? But again, Jesus is making a thematic point. The lamp represents the Word of God. A lamp is not to be hidden but seen. Therefore God’s Word is to be heard and received with care. Just as we would not hide a light, we do not shy away from hearing the Word of God. Take care in how you receive and perceive the Word of God. Do not just read it, or hear it without concern for understanding. If we do read and perceive God’s word, we are spiritually blessed. Understanding God’s Word requires intentionality. Just like if a lamp stops shining or is hidden, then darkness encroaches. If we hide from God’s Word then it is not without consequence. What we had is taken away. We lose spiritual blessing. We move away from our loving God. So read God’s Word with great care and receive more of the presence of God and spiritual blessings.
The Word and Family
The third truth is one who hears and does what the Word of God says will become a part of the family of God. This is perhaps one of the most breathtaking truths. Through hearing the word, bearing fruit, receiving more, we become a part of God’s family. After all, the church really is the family of God. As followers of Jesus we really are brothers and sisters. In verses 19-21 we have what could be called a living parable. Unlike a traditional parable, what we read in these three verses really happened to real people. But like a parable this story has one purpose. Luke wants his reader to know that by hearing and doing what Jesus taught we become family members.
Jesus is teaching and again a large crowd is listening. His mother and brothers come to see Him. The problem is they cannot reach Him because of the crowd. As Jesus is teaching He gets word that his family is here. What Jesus said is abrasive at first. It may seem a bit harsh. He told the crowd, “my mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” That is not the response we would expect. Jesus does not just say “hang on a minute.” He instead makes an appeal to the crowd. Said another way, if you hear and do the words of God then you are my family. This is a living parable and Jesus is stating frankly that acknowledging God’s word is not enough. There must be a response to it. James in his letter said the same thing when he talked about being ‘doers of the Word not just hearers.’
Just like when I tell my daughter to do something, I expect that she will act on what I am telling her. But the act of doing is a matter of love not duty. When we act on God’s Word we are not obeying out of duty but out of love. Let me be clear, acting on God’s Word is not the ticket to get into the family of God but a mark of someone who is in the family. It is a mark of love to respond. Said another way, the family of God will hear and do what God says. To the disciple who hears and does, you are in the family of God, and this is a big promise that Jesus offers his listeners.
Luke strings these stories together with the theme of true hearing. From the text the three truths talked about above become reality. When we truly hear then we grow and produce fruit. When we are careful to listen, understand, and intake God’s Word then we receive spiritual blessings. When we understand and respond, then we are members of God’s family. So do not merely hear the word. Do not merely read the Bible. Instead hold on to its truths, take care in understanding it, and respond to it. By doing so you will grow, be spiritually blessed as members of God’s family.