I’m getting old.
And I don’t like it.
I’m wiped tonight, from this intense week of work and traveling. What happened to the days when I could go all day and all night on zero sleep for days at a time? Those days are slipping away. I must be getting old.
Other ways I can tell I’m getting old: This week while on a business trip, one of my responsibilities was to run our PowerPoint presentation from the back of the conference room, onto the massive (and I mean MASSIVE) screen at the front of the room. It’s a good thing that I had a monitor to work off of, because I could not see one single word on that screen. None. Everything was a blur.
And I’ve noticed the past several months that I’ve sung in church, I can’t readd the lyrics on the screen that is hanging from our balcony. It’s a good thing I know most of the words, or else “Hosanna, Hosanna, You are the God that saves us….” would probably come out “Pizza, Pizza, can I please get some pizza?” Yep, it’s that bad.
My kids have a program on the computer that they love to torture me with. It’s a hearing test where the frequency of the sound gets higher and higher. There is a threshold at which I can no longer hear it, yet all of my crew can still hear it–and they think it’s hysterical and can’t believe that I don’t hear what they are hearing. Great. Yeah. They are just a barrel of fun.
Jesus ran into this problem. He would speak, and the people could “hear’, but the certainly did not HEAR. We find this in Mark 4. Jesus is teaching the crowd. A very large crowd. And He is using an extremely important parable to teach them with. I’ll let you read that Parable here in Mark 4:1-9.
After words, His twelve disciples or followers approached Him and asked Him about the parables–we assume that they were seeking the meaning of the parables from Jesus. Jesus asks them, essentially, “Do you not understand?” and proceeds to explain the parable to his disciples.
But then Jesus says something that I find fascinating. Here’s the passage, starting in verse 24:
24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
“Pay attention to what you hear”. Why would Jesus use parables to teach? Surely He knew that some would understand and some would not, in fact–he says as much so that this is true! Is He being deceptive, knowing some would not understand? Is He being cruel, by not making plain his message so that everyone would hear, understand and believe?
I used to think this way about these verses and Jesus’ use of parables. For one thing, I, myself, didn’t understand them. But for another thing, I just didn’t understand why someone would speak in puzzles if that person so desperately loved someone and wanted that person to believe the gospel message. Why would Jesus do this?
I’ve given this some thought this week, and some study. There seems to be some differing opinions on this subject, but I think what I’ve boiled it down to be, in my own mind at least, is this:
Part of the problem is proper listening. He often says, like in verse 9, “He who has ears, let Him hear.” What He is looking for is responsive ears. Unfortunately, my ears are not responsive to the higher frequency tones. Because they are not responsive, my brain cannot translate them into understandable sounds. God is looking to responsive hearts. Hearts that are open to hearing. Hearts that are ready to hear, that desire understanding. It is these responsive ears that will hear, and understanding will be given.
Understanding of scripture is a gift. There is much in scripture that I don’t understand. But I’m always amazed when I come across a scripture passage that has made absolutely no sense to me, and after careful study and work–and prayer–I begin to see. I begin to hear. I begin to understand. That’s a tremendous gift to me from my Father God.
“still more will be added to you”—as your ears open; as you pray for your ears to open; your understanding will grow. Your actual “hearing” of scripture will increase. You will understand more and more. Now that I look back, passages that I once did not understand are often passages that I didn’t care about, or didn’t want to understand, or didn’t want to hear the teaching that was directed at my soul. But as I allow my stubborn, hard-headed self to be taught, my hearing and understanding grow. And I’d much rather hear and know, than not understand and therefore miss out on what God wants for my life.
But what does this mean?:
I think it’s like I said earlier. Understanding builds upon understanding. But the person who refuses to see and hear, even the small amount of knowledge they have regarding spiritual and godly things will be removed from them. There is culpability for those that are believers; that study and know scripture. I knew of a man once who supposedly had some knowledge of things from the Bible. But as he grew older and sicker, that knowledge seemed to disappear. He died with seemingly no knowledge left of the things of God. In fact He died just the opposite. A tragedy. A just tragedy, but still a tragedy.
And just like my eyes being unable to adjust and see at a distance lately, God allows us to see in a way that unbelievers cannot. And I wonder, as well, if some believers have trouble seeing as well, due to sin in their lives. I know that often what is unclear to me becomes clearer when I am not caught up in the sin of pride, the sin of selfishness, the sin of apathy.
I’ll close with these verses from Matthew 13:14-17, also pertains to parables. And I pray that we will be more conscious to hearing and to seeing tomorrow morning as we sit under the teaching in our churches during worship.