What parent hasn't said, or at least thought: "How many times do I have to tell you?" We tell our children things yet they don't seem to listen, understand or respond as we want them to. Actually, not paying attention happens to all of us from time to time. Sometimes it's because of distractions. Sometimes it's because we don't want to hear what is being said. I think that was also true of the disciples' reactions to things Jesus said in the days before he died.
For example, when Jesus told his disciples, "I'm going to suffer and die" (Matthew 16), they completely dismissed the idea as impossible and went about life as usual.
Another time when Jesus predicted his own death, the mother of two disciples asked that her sons sit at his right and left when he came into his kingdom. (Matthew 20) Weren't they listening to the part about his impending death?
In Matthew 26 a woman anointed Jesus' feet with oil. While some complained about this being wasteful, Jesus said it was a beautiful thing that prepared his body for burial. No one asked, "What burial? What do you mean? When will this happen?"
As his crucifixion drew even nearer, Jesus called his disciples together to eat a meal. He said, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." (Luke 22:15) He served them and then talked about the fact that one of them would betray him. Some did ask, "Is it I who will betray you?" Yet very soon the disciples started arguing about who among them was the greatest. Apparently they were focused only on earthly power in spite of the fact that Jesus warned them about his death as well as the temptations they would face.
After the Passover meal Jesus said to his disciples: "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." (Matt 26:38) They fell asleep. Their hearts and minds were not engaged with what was being said.
As we approach this Palm Sunday let's listen intentionally to what God's word says. Let's not miss important things that God wants us to learn by being distracted or by hearing only what we want to hear. We must not allow ourselves to respond as those in the days of Zachariah did after they were given spiritual and practical instruction. "But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry." (Zechariah 7:10-12)
God is not pleased when we refuse to listen to his words and law. However, if he wasn't also a God of love he wouldn't have come to die for us. Is God trying to tell you something during this Easter season? Are you listening? Have you experienced his love? He promises that if we will engage with him, he will respond. "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Helen McCormack writes the Reflections column every six weeks. She and her husband, David, are serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Germany.