My wife teaches eighth-graders reading, spelling and language. One of her biggest pleas is the same heard by students in all classes: “LISTEN!”
Hearing is more than just receiving an audible sound in the ears. Hearing means true listening. It means applying the mind to what the ear hears and to what the eyes see.
Whenever students of the Bible study Mark chapter four, they instantly point to the Parable of the Sower as one of the most important teachings of Jesus.
It most certainly is. Sometimes, though, people only read Mark chapter four for that parable and forget there is another powerful principle they should notice. It is mentioned in all three gospel accounts.
Matthew wrote, “because seeing they do not see and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matthew 13:13 NASB). Mark wrote, “he who has hears to ear, let him hear” (Mark 4:9) and “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:23). Luke expressed it as, “So take care how you listen; for whoever had, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him” (Luke 8:18).
The disciples of Jesus had heard remarkable lessons in the parables of the soils, the parable of the candle (Mark 4:21-25), and the parable of the kingdom (Mark 4:26-32). Yet, when they witnessed how Jesus had the power to calm the restless sea, they said, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41). What manner of man?
It is easy for us to sit on this side of the cross and deride the disciples because they did not use their hearing and sight and believe that Jesus is the Christ. It is easy for us to ask, “How could they not see him as more than a man?” Yet, there are many in the religious world who refuse to use their eyes and ears, just as they did not.
We must listen carefully otherwise we become blind and deaf (Matthew 13:15-16). When Jesus said “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16) are we truly listening, or have the words of others closed our eyes and ears?
We must listen carefully to develop faith. Paul said that faith comes from hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). Faith is more than belief; it is belief joined to obedience. It means we must pay attention to what God says and obey all of the words of Christ and the apostles, not just obey what we want to hear. Selective obedience is not enough. We must hear, see and obey all of God’s word in the New Testament.
We must listen because faith is essential to please God. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews cautioned them that faith (belief and obedience) are necessary for salvation (Hebrews 11:6). How can we face God in judgment and tell him we had a problem truly obeying what Jesus and the apostles said; that we developed “selective hearing.” Such will not be enough to please God and get us to heaven.