Jesus has entered a boat and is speaking to the multitudes on the shore. He speaks to them a parable about a sower who sows seed on various types of ground. It’s all the same seed, nevertheless the ground it is sown in brings forth different results.
Some seed falls by the roadside where the ground is packed so hard it can’t even get in, and immediately the birds come and peck it all up.
Some seed falls on thin soil with rock underneath, and although it springs up quickly, when the sun gets hot it just as quickly dies because it isn’t deeply rooted.
Some falls on ground that looks good but is infested with the seeds of thorns, and when the thorns grow up, the plants growing from the good seed are choked out.
And some of the seed falls on fertile ground that yields fruit (I like that word yield here) “some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred” (Mk. 4.8).
At the end of the parable Jesus says to the multitude, “He that hath ears let him hear” (Mk. 4.9).
Luke has this more dramatically, telling us that Jesus cried out this warning.
And when he had said these things He cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Lk. 8.8).
In other words, let no one underestimate the eternal importance of what He has been saying!
After speaking this and other parables to the multitude, Jesus goes aside with his disciples and explains the parable. He didn’t do this with the great multitude, at this point already realizing that most of them weren’t all that interested in what He had to say; they followed Him just for the signs and wonders and miracles. Others were openly against Him, and followed along looking only for an opportunity to find fault. But now he explains the parable to the disciples. He has been talking of hearing the word, likening the hearers of the word to various types of ground. We won’t enlarge on this here except to say that God intends the seed of the word in our lives—the word of the Kingdom of God—to bear abundant fruit, and depending on the condition of our heart this may or may not happen. Hardness of heart, persecution, the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of riches… all these and the lusts of other things can cause a crop failure. But the good and honest heart that endures to the end will bring forth the fruit God is looking for.
What we want to emphasize here is that the Lord rephrases to the disciples His earlier exhortation to the multitude. After He has explained the parable to His disciples He directs these words to them:
If any man have ears to hear, let him hear (Mk. 4.23).
This is phrased a little differently than the first exhortation, and the thought seems to be that Jesus recognizes that, unlike many of those who were stone deaf to what He had been saying, His disciples have ears to hear. The more accurate translation of this second exhortation is, “Since a person has ears to be hearing, let him be hearing” (Wuest Expanded Translation). You mean, Lord, your disciples actually have ears to hear, and you still admonish them?
It’s a profound warning for us, then. It’s possible to have ears—even to think we are hearing—and yet not be hearing very well.
Christ continues by saying:
Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.
For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.
Christian, let us guard against dullness of hearing. Hearing… yet not really hearing. Hearing… yet it doesn’t really register because we are going about our lives in this world, and, with all the things that cry for our attention, the ear that was once attentive is no longer hearing the way it used to.
Or, perhaps unknowingly we have become presumptuous, over-familiar with spiritual things. It’s something that can creep in so easily on the heart. We hear and presume these spiritual words to be ours because of some special group or move we have been involved in, or some great church we go to.
Or, apart from any group or church we are involved in, we have given the inherent pride of our own heart lots of water and sunshine, and we are now oblivious to our deep and continual need to walk in humility and “tremble at His word.” And so now the seed of the word falls on our ear… and we heard it as usual, but actually nothing happened. We have ears, but we are not really hearing. We have lost what young Samuel had when he responded trembling, “Speak, Lord, for your servant heareth.”
In other words, the Lord had Samuel’s full attention.
The Lord Jesus Christ says that with what measure we give our ears to hear Him, in this measure what He is saying shall be measured out to us. If we give our ears but a little, that’s what is given to us in return—little. If our hearing is dull, we won’t get much. If our ears are keen, are sensitive, we will hear more—in fact shall be given more than we anticipated.
…Unto you that hear shall more be given.
Is it possible then, that the Lord has spoken, and, although we heard the words, and got a little, there was more we could have heard? Apparently. The Lord says that it is to those who have ears and actually hear, that it shall be given.
For he that hath, to him shall be given.
And then the solemn final warning.
And he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.
I don’t want to be in that category of the listener who the Lord says has ears but is actually going about his life not hearing what He is saying at all. And suddenly I discover that what I thought I had… actually I did not have it, and it is taken from me completely now.