And then that same voice calls all of God’s children to follow Jesus on that path.
The Gospel according to Mark addresses, from its outset, a central roadblock that prevents Israel from following Jesus Christ as true disciples.
Jesus says in Mark 4:9 “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Israel’s response to and ability to Hear Jesus, the word of God, is a central theme of Mark’s gospel account.
Israel’s inability to Hear the word of God is a major roadblock to her obeying, repenting, believing and following Jesus.
In the Bible the ear is synonymous with the heart and mind as organs of reason. True hearing involves listening and understanding. To “incline” the ear is to be favorably disposed to what is heard. Psalm 78:1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
God alone opens the ears of men to hear his word. Isaiah 50:4 …Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught…
A lack of hearing is the decisive spiritual failure and rebellion against God. This is a central theme in the Gospel according to Mark.
The Greek word translated as “obey,” in Mark 4:41 is the same as “to hear,” but with a prefix that means hyper.
So, obeying is “hyper-hearing.” Its hearing that leads to action, obedience is a response to God’s words. Jesus is making this point throughout the Gospel.
Don’t just hear him, hyper-hear him – the kind of hearing that goes beyond the eardrum and affects the heart, prompting action.
This is why Jesus uses the ability to hear as a metaphor for spiritual health.
In Chapter 4 of Mark, Jesus tells the parable of the seeds, or as it is called, the parable of the hearers.
Jesus explains that the word of God is received by different people, just as seeds are received in different kinds of soil. Mark 4:14 “the sower sows the word.”
The word of God is seed. The seed is scattered, and Jesus explains.
The word is received by some, but Satan comes and removes it. Others receive the word of God with Joy, but tribulation and persecution cause them to fall away. Another group receives the word, but the cares of this world choke it and it dies. The last group receives it and accepts it, bearing much fruit – demonstrating what hyper-hearing looks like.
Jesus tells us that the parable of the seeds, the parable of the hearers, is the crucial parable to understanding, not only all the parables Jesus told in Mark’s account but understanding the Gospel itself. Mark 4:13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?
Jesus came to unblock the ears of Israel and the Nations. To pierce them. Cleaning out the obstructions that prevented them from Hearing and thus hyper-hearing the word of God.
In the parable of the hearers, each type of soil hears the same word but reacts differently.
The type of soil of each hearer’s heart, has everything to do their ability to obey Jesus. The seed does not always penetrate the surface however to get down to the heart.
There is hardness in both the hearts and the ears of Israel and Jesus needs to break up the the fallow ground so that it can receive the Seed of His word.
Poetically, Jesus is the sower, casting the word of God in the field of Israel. Jesus – “came into the world to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God,” we are told in Mark 1:14-15.
Jesus is the sower and the seed is the word of God. But what Jesus finds is fallow ground, hardened ground, stopped up ears and unbelieving hearts.
This is made explicitly clear in Chapter 7, just before Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah, we are clued into the central theme of Jesus’ ministry again.
Opening the ears of Israel and the world.
Mark 7:32–35 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears…And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
The deaf man is a living parable. A walking talking poetic device. God’s artform is displayed in the walking talking cognitive beings of human history. To have “deaf,” “heavy” or “uncircumcised” ears is to reject what is heard.
The suffering man is brought by his friends to Jesus so that Jesus may give him the ability to hear.
And in this we see the illness of Israel and its cure – the piercing of the ears. This is the spiritual state of Israel. The word of God is scattered throughout its history by direct revelation, the ministry of the prophets and what happens again and again? Israel doesn’t hear God, because her ears are uncircumcised.
In Stephens’ sermon just before His execution, he summarized the history of Israel in Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.
This is a central theme of Israel’s rebellion. The people of God, for all their fastidious attention to the details of the sacrificial system and their pride in their status as God’s children, in reality held God’s word up as an object of scorn.
Jeremiah 6:10 To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.
The people of God, all too often, hold up the word of God as an object of scorn. And in the end, that rebellion led to holding the Word of God, the Son of God up as an object of scorn.
Because the two, though distinct, cannot be separated.
Unhearing Israel handed Jesus over to unhearing Roman thugs. They could not hear Jesus, so they silenced Him.
They did that. The question for you this evening is are you likewise holding the word of God up as an object of scorn? The word of God’s, words?
The scriptures are our daily bread, but the American church has grown as spiritually anemic, as it has grown materially rich.
We have gotten comfortable to the point of spiritual lethargy. Israel grows complacent. We lose the gift-giver amidst His overflowing gifts. We grow apathetic and passive. The world may hold up Jesus’ person and work as an object of scorn.
But we have stopped up our ears. We hold the Word of God’s words up as an object of scorn. We are not hearing, we are also not hyper-hearing.
Deuteronomy 32:15 says that Israel, grew fat, and kicked… grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.
They may have scoffed at the Lord Jesus upon the cross, but do you scoff at Him by ignoring and not hyper-hearing His word? Because you don’t listen to Him?
The softer our hands become, the harder are our ears become. The softer our midsections become, the harder are our hearts become.
When difficult times come, everyone’s faith is exposed. Pandemics and economic calamities are a hearing test.
Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Faith comes from hearing the words of Christ. If your circumstances get rough, it’s a test of your faith. And since faith comes from hearing the word of Christ. Difficult circumstances are a hearing test.
A test to see if we’ve been listening more to God or to the world. To junk science or the testaments of God’s salvific work. To the will of the Father or ourselves. Have we been traveling the way of the cross or the way of self?
Are we hearing and hyper-hearing the word of God? How are you reacting to what is going on?
Fear? Pessimism? Anger? Bitterness? Frustration? Hopelessness? Isolation? We’ve been saying for years that the church isn’t a building, it’s a people. Are we proving it in the current climate?
Entitlement and the distractions of affluence and pleasure are the spirits of the age.
Arrogance and disunity in the body of Christ plague us. We have an authority problem. What is a father’s authority, the church’s the governments? What authority does the Word of God have in our daily lives?
Long before Governor Jay Inslee said, all Israel to her tents, hadn’t we already made it a way of life? A spiritual discipline?
C. S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Look at how God has raised His voice in the last month. Are you listening?
He is giving us a hearing test. He isn’t shocked at our failures, because he came into the world to unstop our ears and soften our hearts.
Let us not turn from Him at this moment. Let us not avoid the silence he has provided, in which he whispers, “repent and believe.”
The Word’s words are what will circumcise our ears. They will pierce through our ears to soften the soil of our hearts to receive Jesus’ fruitful seed.
The word of God is sweeter than the honey of the honeycomb, but we satiate ourselves with the artificial sweeteners of the world and our own wisdom.
We held up the Word of God as on object of scorn, nailing him to a cross. But he didn’t remain there and the rest of that story we celebrate, Sunday.
On this day, when we look back on our holding the Word of God up as an object of scorn, it is a hearing test. Are you holding the word of God’s words up as an object of scorn?
Is it bearing fruit? Or has Satan stolen it away through His Warfare against your soul? Has pressure from the fear of man or actual persecution smothered it? Have the cares of this world – its pleasures and distractions and wonders – choked the word of God in your ear?
Do you need your ears pierced again? Unstopped, opened?
Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
Do your ears need healing? Do they need surgery? So that you can hear the Word of God’s words? So that you can hyper-hear them? Are you bearing fruit 30, 60, a hundred-fold? To whom much is given, much is required.
The great physician will heal your hearing. He will heal your heart.
Hebrews 4:12–13 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
We will all stand before the throne of Grace on Judgement day, exposed. But let us not wait for that to be the next time we stand before God exposed.
Let us take up the word of God and let it pierce us through the ear down to our very hearts and let our hearts return to Christ. Let us renounce ourselves and not just hear the voice of our Shepherd. Let us Hyper-hear it. Jesus has provided a way in out of this wilderness back to Him.
Jesus came to remove the road blacks that prevent us form following Him on the way of the Cross.
And is constantly checking in on us to see how we are progressing and maturing.
How is the hearing test going? How is your faith? How have you been responding? How has your children and your spouse responded?
Fear? Doubt? Bitterness towards those taking it too seriously? Not seriously enough? How is your speech about the Governor been?
What changes do you need to make before the next hearing test?
What have you heard God saying in these times? What does obedience to that message look like?
Let us incline our ears and cry out to God that they may be opened, that we might obey.