“Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.” Jesus inserted these mysterious words at key points during his teaching. Usually, it was just before or just after he had told a parable, one of his patented stories designed to make an important point through graphic imagery. In fact, one time he told his disciples that he used parables just to sort out who had “ears to hear” and who didn’t:

The disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given…The reason I speak to them in parables is so that seeing they will not perceive, and hearing they will not listen, nor will they understand.”   (Matthew 13:10, 11, 13)

Someone may “hear” a parable in a very superficial way, just as an interesting story from nature. But another person may “hear” on a much deeper level, recognizing a message from God and coming to a new understanding.

It may sound as if Jesus was purposely hiding important spiritual truths from those in the crowd who were not his followers, but actually, the problem was that they didn’t have the right equipment. The “ears to hear” were given only to those who accepted and followed him.

Here’s the parable he told them:

“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”   (Matthew 13:3-9)

Even though his disciples, in contrast to the other people in the crowd, had “ears to hear,” they needed help from Jesus to get to the meaning of the parable:

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:18-23)

The spiritual lesson is all about Roots and Fruits. If the soil is rich enough to support and sustain Roots, then the plants that grow there are likely to bear a good crop of Fruit. If my faith has sprouted  from a seed planted by Jesus, I’m looking up for Fruit and down for Roots in my life.

Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.

— Pastor George Van Alstine