8 Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, 2 along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; 3 Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples
4 One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: 5 “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. 6 Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:
‘When they look, they won’t really see.
When they hear, they won’t understand.’
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. 12 The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. 13 The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. 14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. 15 And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.
16 “No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a bowl or hides it under a bed. A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house. 17 For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.
Jesus talks here about listening. Like those in the crowd listening to Jesus, many of whom were not good listeners, we are often not good listeners today. It seems that Jesus taught often in parables to force those he was speaking to, to really listen.
He quoted Isaiah 6:9, and we often interpret that to mean God blocked their eyes and ears so they couldn’t see or hear. But that is not God’s intention, nor was it Jesus’ intention. To me, it is simply a description of what listeners are like. We have short attention spans. We don’t listen carefully.
In this parable Jesus describes four kinds of listeners: 1.) Those who look like listeners, but don’t really listen; 2.) those who listen and seem to get it, but when something more interesting comes along, they forget what they heard; 3.) those who listen and seem to get it, but the cares and worries of life crowd out what they heard; and 4.) those who work at listening, who cling to what they hear, and patiently make it work in their lives.
The promise is that if we are like the 4th kind of listener, we will understand, and we will be transformed.
18 “So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.”