Ears to Hear: Getting it! “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:23). This was the expression Jesus used eleven times in the Gospels right after He taught important truths about God’s Kingdom. This same challenge is issued after Jesus’ exhortation to each of the seven churches in the book of Revelation: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22). There were great multitudes of people listening to Jesus’ messages, but there were really only a small few who actually had “ears to hear” what He was actually saying.
In Parable of the Sower, which is the first parable that Jesus tells in Matthew 13, situations are described which can hinder the seed from bringing forth fruit. Seed sown by the wayside is quickly snatched up by the enemy and this scenario refers to those who “hear” but do not “understand” the Word. In the original language of the New Testament, the word “understand” literally means “to set, to put, or to join together in the mind”. In other words, those with ears to hear get it!
Understanding is key to being fruitful. This has nothing to do with intellectual ability. In fact Jesus rejoiced that it was not the “wise and prudent,” but rather, “babes” that were able to “get” what Jesus was saying (Mat. 11:25). Why do some “get it” and others don’t? It is all a matter of the heart and our willingness to do what Jesus is telling us. The disciples got it. They were willing to follow. When some were challenging His message, Jesus made this statement:
“Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own” (John 7:17 NLT).
This is a very critical point for those who would ask for “ears to hear.” Unless there is a willingness of heart to do God’s will, our ears will be kept from getting the message. Jesus told His disciples:
But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it (Mat. 13:16-17 NIV).
The disciples had ears to hear because they had willing hearts. This can be seen in their persistance to learn as seen in the following verses:
“His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant” (Luke 8:9 NASB). “As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables” (Mark 4:10 NASB). “But without a parable spake He not unto them: and when they were alone, He expounded all things to His disciples” (Mark 4:34 KJV).
Jesus’ explanations were not given to the general multitude that heard. They were only given to those who wanted to understand. To those followers who sought Him out diligently, and were not afraid to ask questions.
Yet there were situations where even the disciples did not get Jesus’ message. One time, Jesus scolded His disciples:
Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?” (Mark 8:18)
One clear situation where the disciples didn’t get it was when Jesus foretold His suffering and crucifixion:
Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement” (Luke 9:44-45).
Why couldn’t they get it? Again, a willing heart was the real issue here. Just a few verses previously, Jesus had clearly told them of His sufferings, crucifixion, and resurrection on the third day. He also added these words:
“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
Obviously, the disciples would have had difficulty with this! Casting out demons by the power of God, healing the sick, seeing miraculos provision — all this was awesome! But picking up a cross and following Jesus to an execution-style death, was beyond what they could handle! Ears to hear was not something they were interested in! “…they were afraid to ask Him about this statement.”
After Jesus’ resurrection, two disciples had an unusual encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. They walked together with Him for quite a distance, yet their eyes were completely prevented from perceiving who He was (Luke 24:16 NASB). Amazingly, in that state, they received the most unusual Bible teaching that anyone has ever received:
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
As they approached their home in Emmaus, Jesus did something very unusual:
“As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther” (Luke 24:28).
That unique Bible teaching would have just been passed off and forgotten as just so much talking and speculation were it not for the next thing those two disciples did:
“But they urged Him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So He went in to stay with them” (Luke 24:29).
Then while Jesus broke bread, their eyes were opened, they recognized who He was, and He disappeared!
“They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?'” (Luke 24:32)
They got it! The message finally sunk in! Let’s not miss our opportunity to get it! The seed is precious and it will produce fruit, but only if the soil upon which it lands is willing enough to receive it! May the Lord help us, too, to be persistent enough to get it!