Those words in Luke 19 v 48 struck me afresh as I read the events leading up to Good Friday in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus has cleared the temple of all its consumerist clutter and now sits there daily, teaching the crowds who come to hear him. Those who oppose him come to try and find an excuse to arrest and destroy him, but they find no opportunity for “ all the people were hanging on Jesus words”.
It is a lovely image of people sitting around listening eagerly and intently to Jesus. They did not want to miss a single word he said-they were literally “all ears.” It has always fascinated me that the world for listen is so closely linked to the word for obedience. In the Old Testament the same word is used for both. In the New Testament the Greek word for obey means, ‘to hear under’-to act as a result of being convinced by the speaker of truth. Listen-then live in obedience to the truth you have heard.
Intrigued by the origin of the phrase “ hanging on” I did some research which led to a chilling, but very meaningful discovery. The ancient meaning of hanging on referred specifically to crucifixion- to a body hanging on a cross. Only later (when clothes hangers were first invented!) did it also come to mean to hold onto, to hold fast to.
I wonder in this Holy Week and beyond if we can learn more fully to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to him and then live out obediently what he has taught us? Can we hold onto the words of the Word made flesh, even as he was hung onto a cross for us?