LUKE 2:46-47 (NIV) | “After three days they found [Jesus] in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers."
My mother made me a scientist without ever intending to. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: So? Did you learn anything today?
But not my mother. “Izzy,” she would say, “did you ask a good question today?” That difference — asking good questions — made me become a scientist.
- Isidor Isaac Rabi
When we ask questions, we open up a world that was hidden to us before. We find a depth of sacredness, even in our everyday life, that was previously unknown. As we ask questions, we learn to become good listeners.
In Luke 2, after a frantic search, Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the temple listening to the teachers, hearing the stories of their ancestors, discussing the reason that he and his family had trekked 80 miles from their hometown of Nazareth to the city of Jerusalem. The teachers were probably reflecting on the Passover, the great event when God heard the cry of his people and rescued them from an oppressive regime. They might have dipped into the story of the Exodus and the 40 year desert wanderings and discussed the ups and downs and trials and tribulations of the journey. From the posture of listening attentively, Jesus was able to ask insightful questions—questions that amazed the wise Jewish scholars.
I am currently part of a team and living in a township called Soshanguve in South Africa. Our neighbors have experienced a country engulfed in horrific segregation that gave the white citizens all the power. These same neighbors voted in 1994 in the first fully free democratic election. Since then, the country and its people have worked steadily to recover from the turbulent past. During our time here, we have discovered how important it is to tune in to the unfolding journey that the country has been on, to hear the stories of our neighbors who have experienced the many changes, to be attentive to the cries of those who are still oppressed, and to listen to the heartbeat of God for this place.
This posture of listening has helped us to appreciate the bigger picture and to better understand our friends in Soshanguve as they struggle with poor quality education, unemployment, a massive gap between rich and poor, and a variety of other difficult issues. Hearing their stories has helped us to love our neighbors better.
This kind of listening is critical in a cross-cultural setting like ours, but it is a deeply powerful part of following Jesus no matter where we live. Good listening allows us to ask questions like “What is God already doing here?” and “What is my role in it?” Good listening creates opportunities to express the love of God and to respond to need in ways that honor and bless. Good listening prepares us, just like young Jesus in the Temple, for a life of living out the good news of the Kingdom of God.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION
- Would you consider yourself a good listener? As you think about the people you will meet during the coming day, is there someone who might benefit from being listened to?
- Do you have practices in your life that help you to listen for the leading of God? If so, what is God saying to you today? If not, experiment with taking a few minutes in silence to listen for God’s direction and inspiration.
This reading is a part of our "Small Feet Big Shoes" devotional series. You can also sign up to receive these meditations by email.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Horrocks and his wife, Debbie, and the 30-week bump are originally from Scotland and currently live in Soshanguve, South Africa. They have been serving with InnerCHANGE since 2014.