“Dad, stop making your points,” my exasperated middle school daughter sighed recently, after one more of my brilliant analogies. As parents naturally do, I was using an example to make a point about an attitude she needed to change. It was concrete, clear, and drew out the truth I was seeking to make obvious to her. Needless to say, it fell on deaf ears.
You might say she did not have ears to hear. (You might also note that I am not Jesus and don’t have His perfect communication skills.) She heard me, she understood my words, yet the meaning did not penetrate her heart.
Jesus navigated this very matter at a more profound level, an eternal life-and-death level. He spoke life-saving truths in parables, veiled stories packed with meaning. But only some people could pull back the veil to access the meaning with clarity—those with “ears to hear.” To some, Jesus said, the secrets of the kingdom had been revealed, and for them parables were clear and crystalline, solid and sharp. For everyone else, they were a fog of words swirling around the truth, keeping it from being clearly seen and understood.
When Jesus spoke of good soil, mustard seeds, wheat and weeds, and leaven, He was using familiar objects and actions to give imagery to spiritual realities. Like an optical illusion, His words were lost on many listeners. But for those who were willing to hear, Jesus would explain His parables.
Why didn’t He explain them for everyone? Why not just speak in plain language to begin with? Because Jesus was calling hearts, not arguing with minds. He spoke to the ears of the heart, and if those ears could hear Him, then the heart would follow Him. Those with ears to hear were the good soil in which the Word could spring up, grow, and bear fruit. Their fruit was like a mustard seed of faith that started small and would become a great plant.
So often we read Scripture and see the words of Jesus. We hear sermons and lessons. We read books and receive teaching. Our minds absorb it and parse it out. Our intellects are stimulated as we put together ideas and arguments. But are we good soil? Is the seed of the Word planted and bearing the fruit of faith? We hear, but do we listen? For that is how we truly know Jesus and enter into His kingdom.
Written by Barnabas Piper