How does an apostle hear the word of God?
Why should I care? Is it even relevant to me?
I would say yes. If you’re curious why I say so, read on.
The word apostle means “one who has been sent” (from the Greek, apostello, to send out). Specifically, an apostle, in the New Testament is one who is called to be close to Jesus, to hear His word, to observe his healing ministry and then to be an ambassador of His Kingdom, sent out (apostled) to proclaim the ways of God and to heal.
Consider this: an apostle is one whose life on earth continues the mission that the Father gave to Jesus. We know this because Jesus said so to his apostles:
“As the Father sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21).
He then breathed on them the Holy Spirit in a kind of reenactment of how the Father inaugurated Jesus’ mission on earth: through the coming of the Spirit in Mary’s womb (Lk. 1:35). This same movement occurs at Jesus’ Baptism, when the Spirit descends over Him at the sound of the Father’s voice. “You are my son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased” (Mk. 1:11).
The way I read Scripture, we are all, in a way, called to be filled with the Spirit; called to hear the Father’s voice whispering unto us His love; we are all sent to those around us to continue Jesus’ mission of making God’s love concrete on earth. The apostles are models for us in this; they are not custodians of a domain denied to the average layperson.
So then I ask: how can I listen to the word of God as an apostle listens? How can I hear as an apostle hears? How can the Word of God that, in my ears, I hear; how can it pass through to my intelligence and then descend into my heart? How can it move me to action, from hearing to action?
I think of one verse in particular, from Matthew 10:27 – “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light. What in your ears you hear, proclaim from the rooftops.”
I want to zero in one idea here. What in your ears you hear. . .
Think about that phrase. Jesus here is addressing his close disciples: on a daily basis they hear, with their ears, the words of Jesus. They hear Him read from the Scriptures, they Hear him pray over meals, they hear Him pray the Psalms, in a ceaseless flow that expresses the cry of Israel and the cadences of the human heart; they hear Him make the Word real; express it in day to day images; they hear Him utter new words, full of power, full of authority; they hear Him make healing happen from a mere word and a touch; they heard Him expel the forces of evil from human souls through the power of His word. This, in their ears, is what they hear.
What is that hearing like?
I think the apostles experience Jesus’ word as a kind of existential force. When Jesus speaks, they know that His word corresponds to the real. That it has existential power. His word not only describes reality; it also engenders reality. Things comes to be when He speaks. Healings come to be. Deliverance from demons comes to be. Forgiveness of sins comes to be. Power over nature comes to be. All through the power of His word.
A word that in their ears they hear. A word with the power to be and to bring into being.
If we know these things to be true of Jesus’ word, how would we hear it, how would we listen? Might we begin to listen as an apostle? Might we begin to hear differently?
Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, behold I yearn to be one of those whom you call and send. Morning by morning, waken my ears, Lord, that I might hear as an apostle. Have mercy on me.