THE PERIL OF HEARING
He said to them, ‘Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’ (Mark 4: 21-23)
How does this statement fit in with the parable of the four soils and its explanation? I think Jesus was talking about Himself. He was revealing His reason for this teaching. We have already explored the meaning of being “the light of the world”. We learned from the Tanakh – the Old Testament – that “light” often refers to the Word of God.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psa. 119: 105)
When Jesus described Himself as the “light of the world” He was calling people to follow Him because He walked in the light of God’s Word (John 8: 12). He came into the world to be the light – to show people how to interpret and live by the Word of God. Of what good would it be, then, to be in the world as a light but to put the lamp under a “bowl” or a bed where its light would not shine in the room? It was His responsibility to shine the light by both living and teaching the Word of God so that what was hidden in people’s hearts would be exposed.
In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1: 4-5)
Every time He told a story, people would either react or respond to it according to what was in their hearts. This was His purpose so that no one would be able to hide behind the excuse that they did not know.
This is where we come to the importance of the disciple’s response. Why did Jesus teach in parables? He told them why.
The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those outside everything is said in parables. (Mark. 4: 11)
Jesus taught in parables to differentiate between those who sincerely chose to follow Him and those who were in it for what they could get out of it. The very parables He taught would either harden or soften their hearts according to their choices.
But with His teaching comes a warning. Even from those who wanted to follow Him, there were degrees of response. Some would follow with their whole hearts and unreserved obedience while others would follow guardedly and with reservations, picking and choosing what they wanted to obey.
‘Consider carefully what you hear,’ He continued. ‘With the measure you use it will be measured to you – and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.’ (Mark 4: 24-25)
Jesus warned that the measure with which they responded would be the measure of what they received. Those who responded to His teaching and obeyed it wholeheartedly would receive more. Those who did not give Him wholehearted allegiance and obedience would lose what little they had. Once again the measure of the truth they received and the measure of their fruitfulness depended not on God but on them.
He had already made it clear to His disciples that the ones “on the outside” would be taught in parables to confirm where they already were in their unresponsiveness and unbelief. Now He fine-tuned it even further. Through their choices, according to the interpretation of the parable, they had already forfeited the opportunity of receiving Him as their Messiah because they had refused to receive and walk in the light of the Word. His disciples, likewise, would receive light – enlightenment – according to the measure with which they received the Word.
Judas, for example, was one of the disciples – on the “inside” as compared with those “on the outside” and yet, in the end, he was worse than those on the outside. Even from his privileged position as a chosen disciple of Jesus, he had received nothing and lost everything. He was there at that moment, hearing the parable and its explanation and the exhortation, and receiving the warning. But, like the path where the seed fell and was snatched away, he heard nothing; or like the stony ground, there was no root, or even like the thorny soil, what little response there was, was choked by the thorns that were already growing there.
How, then, did Jesus expect His talmidim to respond? Everything He was to them, everything He had taught them and trained them to do moved them towards this moment. They would determine the measure of truth they would receive and the measure of their fruitfulness. Whether they gained more or lost what they had, whether they were abundantly fruitful in their lives or pathetically unfruitful depended entirely on them.
Jesus promised them the priceless gift of the Holy Spirit – the same Spirit who accompanied Him on His journey to the cross. The same power that enabled Him to live a sinless life, to die as an atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world and to rise from the dead would be in them to enforce what they believed. Theirs was the choice. Would they hear or would they refuse to hear?
Everything grows from a seed. God’s word is a seed. In it is the potential for abundant fruitfulness. There is nothing to restrict its growth except the condition of the heart. In every disciple’s heart there is the potential to ignore or reject the Word where there are areas of hardness and unbelief, or shallow soil where the roots cannot penetrate, or even thorny ground where our hearts are split by all-consuming concerns or desires. It is up to us to choose the measure of our response and the measure of what we gain or lose.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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