MY REFLECTION ON JESUS SOWERS' PARABLES (MATHEW 13): HE WHO HAS EARS TO HEAR LET HIM HEAR
n Mathew 13 Jesus told three parables about Sowers, about Seeds, about Soils, about Weeds, about Treasures, and about Reapers. These are well-known stories that have been told at Sunday school level and have been preached from time immemorial with various interpretations by different preachers. Hence the contents of the parables are not the focus of my reflection. My focus is on what Jesus did before the parables and what He said after the parables. Mathew 13:1-3 says "On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea". Verse 2 adds: "And the great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a BOAT and sat, and the whole multitude stood on the shore". From verses 3 to 53 Jesus told the parables that we all know so well.
At the beginning Jesus saw the massive crowd. He also saw the need to effectively position Himself so that He is accessible to the people He would be talking to, His Hearers. For everyone to hear Him, Jesus stepped into the boat and sat down. The boat became His pulpit from where the multitude would have full access to Him. The massive crowd stood on the shore facing Jesus. They were ready to absorb all that Jesus had to say. Seeing that they were ready with receptive hearts, Jesus began to speak. This is a very important dynamics in Classroom Engagement. Jesus was ready. The multitude was ready. With the communication rules and dynamics of engagement in place Jesus proceeded to speak.
Communication dynamics is bidirectional. It contains the Speaker and the Hearer. The Speaker is the one who has something to say and the Hearer is the one who needs to "hear" and "understand" what is being said. In the process the Speaker can use words, numbers, signs, images, etc. The Speaker can also employ non-verbal symbols like body language, hand gestures, facial expressions etc to convey what he/she has to say. Overall the Speaker choses a medium that he/she believes will be most helpful for the Hearer's understanding of what is being conveyed. In receiving the message the Hearer also must be able to interpret the message, give meanings to the forms and symbols being presented and understand the message as a whole. Effective communication is accomplished only when the message is received and understood in the way it is intended. Otherwise there will be "misunderstanding" when there is no synchrony between what is being conveyed and what is being received. There will also be "distortions" when the Hearer's understanding of a message is a different from what the Speaker is trying to convey.
Jesus did not attend any School of Communication neither did He take relevant courses in Communication Studies. But He understood communication dynamics. In His own case Jesus chose a unique way of communication. He uses Parables which are stories and powerful symbols to illustrate concepts to His Hearers. Jesus used hundreds of parables in His ministry. Verse 34 says "Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables and without a parable He did not speak to them."
However twice in this chapter in Verses 9 and 43 Jesus made a significant statement "He who has Ears to Hear let him Hear". In my NKJV Jesus used the word "Hear". 95% of all the Bibles translation in the world also used "Hear". Only, one or two used "Listen". Hearing and Listening are not the same thing, although they are at times used interchangeably.
Hearing is an act of that involves merely absorbing what is being said. While in Listening one is required to, reflect, contemplate, make meaning of and understand what is being said. Jesus injunction is to "Hear". As was His practice, after each parable Jesus would give the interpretation of the parable, thereby explaining the meaning to His hearers. At a point His disciples asked why He does that. Jesus knew that the act of understanding is hard and tedious for all us. So in verses 13, Jesus explains, "seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand". However throughout the chapter Jesus explained ALL His parables to the people. After having fulfilled his part as a Marvelous Teacher, Jesus in verse 51 asked them "Have you understood all these things"? The people replied "Yes Lord". Jesus wants us to hear, but He assumes the responsibility of clarifying and explaining things to us to ensure our full understanding of all that is being said.
At Jesus baptism God affirms His Son. He says "This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased". At Jesus transfiguration, God told Jesus disciples to "hear" Jesus. "This is my Beloved Son, hear Him". God the Father in His love for His Son wants us to hear what Jesus has to tell us. The Father speaks through His Son. Jesus always has a lot to say about many things: about His Father, about Himself, about the Holy Spirit, about love, about life, about death, about our neighbor, and about our behavior and so on.
As a follow up, Jesus expressed His desire for all of us to "hear" what he has to say at any given time. Hence He says "He who has Ears to Hear let him Hear" The Christian life revolves around hearing Jesus. I have identified five dimensions and questions as regards this hearing.
The first question is "Does Jesus still speak now that He has returned to His Father, the Creator"? How can we hear, when we do not even know whether He speaks, or not? The answer of course is "Yes". Jesus still speaks. Jesus has always spoken. He has been speaking from the beginning of time. Jesus spoke to His disciples and followers. Jesus is still speaking to His people, to all of us. Jesus will continue to speak till the end of time.
The second question is "Now that we know that Jesus speaks, how does He speak to us today?" (a) Jesus speaks through God's Word. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that All Scripture, is God's word given by the inspiration of God. It is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that we may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. God's Word sometimes gives us a warning, a word of encouragement, or a lesson for life. That means God at times "whispers", and at times "shouts", His Word, giving us instructions and principles for life. (b) Jesus also speaks through other Believers. He may use a friend, a teacher, a parent, or a preacher to convey His message of truth to us. Their words may come as a warning, a blessing, or as a prophetic truth about our lives. Whether we choose to hear it or ignore it depends on us. (c) Jesus speaks through God's Spirit which is "God's still, small voice". God's Spirit is in everyone because He has created everyone. However as Christians when we accept Jesus as God's Son, Jesus speaks to us through the Spirit of God. When we are tempted, that same Spirit warns and nudges us to do the right thing. We are supposed to depend on God's Spirit to give us direction. In fact the Bible tells us that we will hear a voice from behind us telling us which direction to go. (Isaiah 30: 21). (d). Jesus also speaks to us through Prayer. We may not know how to pray, but Romans 8:26-27 tells us that God's Spirit makes intercession for us. Prayer at times in combination with fasting makes our minds become clearer and our hearts more sensitive to God. We may not hear God's literal voice, but His Spirit confirms a certain direction or answer for us. (e) Jesus at times speaks through His miracles. All the Miracles of Jesus are testament to His Power and Purpose. All His miracles confirm us in our faith. That is why people give testimonies of what Jesus has done in their lives. This in turn serves as an encouragement to others. Regardless of the way Jesus chooses to speak to us, His messages always have a purpose and we are required to pay attention to them.
The third question is "Do we hear Jesus speak?" Jesus says in John 10:27, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me". Psalm 100: 3 tells us "Know that the LORD He is God. It is he who made us, and not we ourselves; and we are His people, the sheep of his pasture." Psalm 95: 7 also affirms this statement. It says "For He is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care." The verse now adds "Today, if only you would Hear his voice." The Sheep know who Jesus their Shepherd is. They belong to Him, and they recognize Him by the sound of His voice.
Hearing Jesus is the first level of our discipleship, of our followership. The second level is getting an interpretation of what is being said. The final level is understanding what is being conveyed. How can we follow Jesus if we do not hear what He has to say to us? How do we situate, locate or position ourselves to hear what Jesus Our Master, our Friend, our Lord and our Saviour has to say to us at any given time? Our view of Jesus is revealed in how we hear him and how we make sense of what He tells us at any time. So when we hear Jesus, what interpretation do we give what He is telling us? Or is it about us doing our own thing, sticking to the images and the interpretations that we have conjured up in our minds. Or do we allow the Holy Spirit to interpret Jesus Words to us?
The truth is Jesus is no more sitting in the boat while we stay on the shore to hear Him and while He is interpreting His word to us. In fact verse 53 tells us "When Jesus has finished these parables He departed from there" Jesus has left the boat. When Jesus was leaving the earth, He promised that He would to send Someone to teach us, Someone to explain things to us, Someone to interpret things to us. And He did. He sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit which was given to humanity has been teaching, interpreting and explaining things to the Children of God who avail themselves of His power. The Holy Spirit as promised will continue till eternity to tell us what we need to know so that we do not fall into error. The Church annually celebrates the Pentecost to continue to remind us that the Holy Spirit Power is still available to us. Coincidentally, we are now in the Pentecost Season, when we continue to celebrate the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
In addition to the Holy Spirit, Jesus gave the Church the five-fold ministry. Jesus speaks to His Church through those He has called to those positions. Ephesians 4:11, says " And He Himself gave some to be (1) Apostles, (2) some to be Prophets, (3) some to be Evangelists, (4) some to be Pastors/Priests and (5) some to be Teachers. Not only does He call people to those positions He empowers them. He gives them His Word and the tongue of a ready writer to pass on His Word to others. Above all He uses them to shepherd His Sheep.
The fourth question is "How do we hear from Jesus? Mary knows. She sits at the feet of Jesus, while her sister Martha gets herself busy with other things. King David knows. The Bible says He sits at the feet of an unseen God to inquire of Him, to hear Him. Remarkable!!!!! So how do you and I hear from Jesus? We all have ears. When Jesus said "He who has Ears to Hear let him Hear", it is not enough for us to have two ears sticking out on the side of our head. Everybody has those. Jesus is referring to another kind of ear that He wants all of us to have: the "spiritual" ear that recognizes that God's Word is crucial, compelling and transforming, the "spiritual" ear that will hear and distinguish Jesus voice amidst the cacophony and innumerable voices of the world.
Finally, do we understand what Jesus is telling us at any given time? Do we always grasp the full meaning of His message? Effective communication is achieved when the Hearer understands what is being conveyed by the Speaker. Jesus parables like His miracles have behind them a meaning and a purpose. Do we always get that meaning and purpose? So what is our individual and collective response to Jesus injunction: "He who has Ears to Hear let him Hear"? Are we always positioned to hear what Jesus has to say to us at all times? Are we genuinely hungry enough to always want to hear from Jesus? Are we always ready to hear what Jesus has to say about anything and everything? Do we understand what Jesus has to say to us each time He speaks? After hearing, do we respond to the truth of His word in such a way that it changes our life? When we allow the Truth of Christ to be sown into our lives, it actually takes Root, and when it does, it produces Fruit.
I cannot answer all these questions for you. Neither can you answer them for me. But they are significant questions that we all need to ponder upon. Every individual knows where she or he is in terms of hearing Jesus. Everyone also knows where he or she wants to be in terms of hearing Jesus. The most important thing is to always have a conversation with Jesus about our desire to "hear" Him, to "listen" to Him and to "understand" Him. The good thing is that Jesus hears us whenever we talk to Him. His ear is not deaf that He cannot hear us. (Isaiah 59:1).
I believe that our response should be the desire for "sensitivity" and "connectedness" so that as the collective Sheep of Jesus we may always "hear" the voice of our Good Shepherd. The following words of a favorite Song of mine capture the essence of "hearing" the voice of Jesus when He speaks to us. "His voice makes the difference, When He speaks He relieves my troubled mind, It's the only voice I hear that makes the difference, And I'll follow one day at a time. When I need him I know where to find him, In my place of prayer His Spirit hovers near, Oh His voice gently gives me my direction, and I'll follow that voice that I hear. Oh His voice is a strong and mighty tower, tearing down every strong hold in my life, He's the Master of the wind and the sea that rages, When He speaks all my darkness turns to light. I have heard other voices speaking to me, To deceive and to lead me astray, Oh but my Shepherd's voice is different from all others, I am His sheep and I know my Shepherd's way." May Jesus confirm in us the desire to "hear", the choice to "listen" and the ability to "understand" what He is saying to us at all times. Amen Amen Amen.