“He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God (John 8:47).”
The normal busied rush hour commute in London was disrupted recently when a passenger spoke words that frightened other passengers so much that they pried open the doors and ran out of the car onto the tracks. (1) It occurred on a Monday morning at 8:30 just outside Wimbledon station when the man calmly began to speak; “Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to speak to you about something and that something is the word of the Lord, Jesus Christ. He’s here to heal your sins. The Bible tells you that homosexuality is a sin and sex before marriage is a sin. You need to repent.” At this panic ensued and the people swiftly fled.
While many feared a prelude to terror several passengers later vouched for the preacher’s calm. One passenger asked him to be quiet and he stopped and stood with his head down. (2) One commuter confessed, him say “how we had to repent of our sins, the lord gave his Son for our sins, etc… I sort of zoned out a little after that as I had no interest in listening to him.”
This preacher’s tactics may not have been the most effective evangelistic effort, still you have to imagine he gave dozens of his citizens something serious to consider that many had likely failed to give sufficient reflection. No doubt most of those on board thought he was crazy but such a reception is not uncommon for those who proclaim God’s word. When Paul preached to Agrippa the urgency of repentance and the gospel the Governor Festus interjected that Paul must be mad (Acts 26:19-28). When the Pharisees confronted Jesus concerning His identity they accused Him of having a demon (John 8:48, 52). What did the people think of Isaiah when he stripped off his clothes and prophesied naked (Isaiah 20)? How did the people respond to the preaching of Jeremiah as he went about bearing and oxen yoke (Jeremiah 27, 28)?
The important thing is not the tactics these men of God used to deliver the message but the response of those on the receiving end. Like the fellow passenger who had no interest in the admonition to repent, the people in simply refused to listen (Isaiah 6:9-10, Jeremiah 7:24, Ezekiel 12:2). When Jesus came He knew He would encounter the same response so He spoke in parables and quoted from Isaiah; “And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them (Matthew 13:14-15).’” What a shame that such a response results in forfeiting His healing.
Others have responded differently though. When God sent Jonah to Nineveh to preach a message of judgment they responded with repentance and they were spared (Jonah 3:5, 10). Jesus even said that those that did not repent at His preaching; “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgement with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here (Luke 11:32).” When the captives returned to Jerusalem they were convicted at their father’s refusal to hear (Nehemiah 9:29) and wept upon hearing God’s Word (Nehemiah 8:9). Some in Athens mocked Paul’s preaching of the gospel and repentance but a few believed (Acts 17:32-34).
Jesus taught the parable of the Sower, which demonstrates the different responses to the hearing of the Word (Matthew 13:1-9) and concluded with this warning, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Men who fear the hearing of God’s Word miss the salvation that would be theirs from fearing the Word itself (Proverbs 13:13).
“Then it shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it (Jeremiah 33:9).”