How’s Your Hearing?
“If anyone has ears to hear, he had better listen!” – Mark 4:23 NET
As in Matthew’s account of this same event, Mark records the words of Jesus carefully. And there is a special emphasis placed on listening and hearing. Jesus even starts off his first parable with the command, “Listen!” Then two separate times He uses the interesting phrase, “If anyone has ears to hear, he had better listen!” Inferred in this statement is the fact that one can hear and not really listen. Anyone with small children can attest to the reality of that fact. And yet Jesus seems to be demanding much more than simply listening. His real point of emphasis seems to be understanding. When talking about the mystery of the Kingdom of God, He tells His disciples that they have been given permission to understand was He is saying. Which is why He takes time to explain to them more fully the meaning behind His parables. But then He quotes from the writings of the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, and says about the others who have heard Him speak, “When they hear what I say, they will not understand” (Mark 4:12 NLT). They will hear and, more than likely, listen intently, but they will fail to understand, and as a result, they will fail to believe.
It is interesting to note that in His parable about the seeds and the soils, in each case, they all represent individuals who hear the same message. But the condition of the soils, or their hearts, has a direct impact on the viability and success of the seed. For some, their hearts are like hardened footpaths where there is no place for the Word of God to take land. They hear, but Word simply sits on the surface, where it soon disappears. Others hear the message gladly and it seems to make a difference, but their problem is that their hearts are shallow, and there is no way for the Word of God to take root. At the first sign of problems or persecution, they give up. And there are those who hear, but their hearts are filled with the cares and worries of this life. They are enamored by materialism, wealth, and the things of this world, so the message is slowly crowded out and, eventually, forgotten. But there will be those few who hear, listen, and understand. Their hearts provide a fertile soil in which the message can take root, grow, and produce fruit in their lives.
Jesus implores them to “Take care about what you hear. The measure you use will be the measure you receive, and more will be added to you. For whoever has will be given more, but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” (Mark 4:24-25 NET). He is telling them to judge what they are hearing Him say carefully. They must not measure or judge His message by the old standard of the Law. He is warning them to listen intently because He is presenting them with new information regarding the Kingdom of God and how they might have a place in it. The old message of inclusion based on inheritance is no longer valid. Just being born a Jew is not enough. Being a descendant of Abraham is not a guarantee of a place in God’s Kingdom. If they will listen to what He is saying and discard their preconceived notions of what it means to be included in the Kingdom of God, they will be given even more understanding. They will receive even more insight into the mysteries or secrets of the Kingdom. But for all those, like the Pharisees, who hear, but refuse to listen and understand, because they are using the wrong standard of measurement, “even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them” (Mark 4:25 NLT).
From our vantage point this side of the resurrection, so much of this makes sense to us. But we have to remember that this was all new information to the disciples. It was radical and revolutionary. It did not gel with their understanding of God, His Kingdom or the Messiah. It wasn’t what they had been taught growing up as young Hebrew boys. Everything Jesus said seemed to be controversial and contradictory to what they had been taught to believe. But He encourages them to listen. He tells them to give up their old standard of measurement or belief and to hear what He is saying and understand the truth for the first time in their lives. And while so much of this makes no sense, Jesus tells them that His Kingdom will grow. Like a farmer who plants his seed and then waits for harvest, the disciples will learn that the message they have heard and soon will share with others, will take root in the lives of others and grow – all because of the work and power of God. But it all begins with listening, hearing, and understanding. The more intently they listened, the more they understood. The more eager they were to understand, the more carefully Jesus explained everything to them. Which begs the question, how well are we, as His disciples in this generation, listening to His words and understanding what He is trying to teach us?
Father, hearing can be hard sometimes. There are so many distractions, so much noise. And there are times when I am hearing, but not listening. You are speaking, but I am too busy listening to other voices. But even in those times when I do listen to You, I can easily fail to understand because what You say does not fit in with what I want to believe. I am using the wrong standard of measurement. I am judging Your Words by the world’s standards. I want pleasure and happiness, and Your desire is for my holiness. Give me ears to hear, listen and understand. Soften my heart so that the Word always finds fertile ground in which to take root, grow and produce fruit in my life. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men