This week at New Life, we learned from one of Jesus' more well-known parables, "The Parable of the Sower" (Mark 4:1-20). In the parable, we noticed how Jesus described four types of hearts (Or four types of listeners responding to the Word of God) with agricultural language the people of his day would have understood:
The hardened heart that is neither receptive to Jesus nor his Word.
The shallow heart that turns away from faith when trials hit.
The distracted heart that can't pursue Jesus because it cares more about what the world has to offer.
The heart that truly treasures the good news of Jesus and ultimately bears fruit.
In the middle of Jesus telling the parable and explaining the parable, he said something that can be difficult for us to understand. Take a look at those words:
“The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'" (Mark 4:11-12; cf. Isaiah 6:9-10)
Jesus said these words as a result of his followers asking him why he was teaching with parables. On the surface, it might look like Jesus wanted to leave some people in the dark, teaching with difficult-to-comprehend parables so they wouldn't turn to him by faith. But based on the love of God for the world (John 3:16) and his hopeful desire that no one would perish (1 Peter 3:9), it's difficult to reconcile the thought that Jesus intentionally wanted some people to not understand the message of salvation.
So what did he mean? Given that this hard saying of Jesus comes in conjunction with a huge lesson on the relationship between our ears and our hearts, Jesus was more likely explaining that his parables have both a comprehensible and incomprehensible nature, depending upon who's listening. If it's a hard-hearted person, a shallow-hearted person, or a person with a distracted heart (See above), the Word of God—and the good news of Jesus—is ultimately not embraced, let alone understood, not because Jesus desires that outcome, but because the "seed" of his Word was never planted in "good soil" to begin with. In other words, people who are unreceptive to Jesus stay in the dark because of their own unreceptiveness to Jesus. But on the other hand, people who are receptive to Jesus not only understand the good news of his kingdom, but they also go on to bear fruit. Much fruit!
So here's a good question to ask ourselves: "What kind of listener am I?" Back in Jesus' day, there was an entire range of listening and understanding that was happening as the crowds heard Jesus, and the same is true today. Jesus doesn't really want anyone to stay in the dark. What he hopes for is that we would be the kinds of listeners who are receptive to him—listeners who have hearts with good soil. Be encouraged this week to be that kind of listener, the kind that is receptive to Jesus and his Word and ultimately goes on to bear much fruit, no matter the trials or distractions we face in this world. "Keep on keepin' on" with Jesus!