He that hath ears to hear, let him hear
Having ears is one thing. Having ears to hear is another.
Back in Moses’ day he lamented the spiritual deafness of the people:
“And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles: Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.” (Deuteronomy 29:2-4)
Notice how hard hearts, blind eyes and deaf ears go together.
In the next chapter Moses speaks of the solution. Somehow they will hear the voice of the LORD (Deuteronomy 30:2). Then,
the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart. (Deuteronomy 30:6)
The heart-melting message will cut to the core of these hard-hearted people. The light will dawn upon a blind nation. The word will make itself heard in their deaf ears.
The word must be heard. The word cannot be heard. But somehow the word is heard, through no power of the people themselves.
When the LORD Himself stands among His people He repeats this teaching. Jesus teaches the parable of parables – the four soils (Mark 4:1-20).
I call this is the parable of parables because of what Jesus says in verse 13:
Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? (Mark 4:13)
If the disciples don’t understand this parable, they won’t understand any parable. This is Christ’s word on Christ’s word. And as He explains it Jesus says,
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Mark 4:9)
Jesus is pleading here. He begins by saying “Hearken, Behold!” He repeats the saying “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (verse 23). He continues His parable saying “Take heed!” (verse 24). He wants all people to hear.
Jesus is public here. He expects all people to hear. In a sense He’s saying “You have ears don’t you? Well use them.”
But Jesus is also particular. There will clearly be some who do not hear. The whole point of the parable is that there are four different reactions to the word of Jesus (we will see these more next time). But, ultimately, those four reactions boil down to two: either you hear or you do not.
Hearing is not the same as listening. It’s not the same as being in the audience. Receiving Christ’s word goes beyond the mere reception of sound waves, or the understanding of doctrine.
We have to be a new kind of person to hear Christ’s word. Yet, as we’ll see tomorrow, it is this word itself that has power to effect that change. The word to which we are naturally deaf has a power to un-stop our ears and make us its hearers. As Jesus commands those with ears to hear, His word is powerful to effect what it says. Tomorrow we will see how this word makes in us a home for itself.