Again Jesus began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that
“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’” – Mark 4:1-12
Tom knows he should not take a left down the hall past her desk, but he does anyway. Sarah knows she shouldn’t go into that favorite store when there’s a sale on, but she decides to check it out “just for the fun of it.” Jaime realizes she should avoid the temptation of Starbucks, but she’s in a rut and hits it every day, ordering her favorite: Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino.
Tom lingers a bit too long at Joan’s desk, and soon they’re down a path neither said they wanted. Sarah ends up maxing out her credit cards, and Jaime’s diabetes spirals out of control. They know. They even hear the advice. But they don’t heed it. They don’t see the advice as a friend or a path to life. It’s just a killjoy to their particular innocent pleasure.
We may think that we have little in common with the people Jesus speaks of in this text. After all we’re not refusing to listen to Jesus’ words. We’re not closing our eyes to his call to repentance. We’re not the hard ground from which the seed of the gospel is too easily carried away.
So how do we get to a better place with all these things? How do we avoid becoming our own worst enemies? That’s what those are who “see but do not perceive, who hear but do not understand.”
There are times when each of us must struggle with hardness of heart. There are times when the cares of this world loom large over us. There are times when the gospel message lays all too shallow in our hearts and lives. But there are also times when that gospel message reached deep into our souls and brings life and joy, peace and hope.
If the gospel message of Jesus is to have any kind of significant impact in our lives, and we bear fruit – thirty, sixty, or one hundred fold. It all starts when we hear and act on Jesus’ first word here, “Listen!”