How Well Do You Hear? (Mark 4.21-34)

The need to listen well remains the focus of the rest of the parables in Mark 4. At the end of the interpretation of the Parable of the Soils, Jesus left us with four options: (1) we don’t get it; (2) we are not very deep; (3) we care more about other things; and finally (4) we get it and live it.

While hearing is the primary sense noted in Mark 4, other words are used to underscore what Jesus is after: Do you get it? Therefore, verbs of seeing, perceiving and understanding are also present.

For example, in Mark 4.21-23, Jesus notes that a lamp belongs in a lamp stand so that it might provide light for those in the room. In this way, what is hidden (the “secret” of the kingdom of God, that is, Jesus) is meant to be “brought out into the open.” Though a lamp helps one see, the next line is the familiar: “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”

If we missed it, the next parable begins with “Consider carefully how you hear.” The enigmatic saying that follow these words makes more sense if they refers to how well we hear. Below are the text and my paraphrase.

With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. The level at which you listen, it the measure you will get, and more than that. Whoever listens well will get even more; however, those who do not listen will lose even what they think they have.

The final two parables in Mark 4 deal with perceiving (hearing) what God is up to. In the first the kingdom of God (God’s will or reign) is compared to the process of planting grain. The farmer does his part in planting the seed but does not know the mystery of how it grows, but because it is the work of God, it does. The last parable compares the kingdom of God to the growth of a mustard seed that far beyond its size becomes large enough that birds can find shelter on its branches.

Mark closes these parables with the comment that Jesus told the crowd as much as they could understand, but that he explained everything to his disciples.

The bottom line of why Jesus used parables is so people could “hear” his mission.

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