Jesus said many things. Every single one of them is vital for us to hear. A particular statement of Jesus was especially appropriate for me today.
Mark 4:9 (ESV) records Jesus’ statement, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Jesus was concluding His Parable of the Sower. This Parable illustrates for those who understand it that His teaching will be rejected by some listeners; be accepted by some other listeners, before they then discard it; be heard by a third group of listeners, who are so distracted by the things of the world that they do not allow themselves to be persuaded by the teaching; but will be welcomed and adopted by a fourth group, who will then bring Jesus’ message to others—and to many others, too.
Jesus, being the Son of God, knew things as God’s own Son would know them. He reflected in His parable the inevitability that resonates in His words. That inevitability must be awareness in Jesus of how it is from His Father.
Jesus does not rail against the listeners who reject his message. Simply, he says they exist. Also, he does not chastise those who are enthusiastic at first but later become indifferent. They exist, too. Likewise, those who are too distracted by the world and its pleasures even to pay attention exist.
Jesus’ approbation is reserved for those who welcome and adopt His message, yielding thereby—as He says it—“thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (4:8).
Jesus is frank later, when He and His disciples are alone, away from the crowd that heard the parable. Explaining why He speaks in parables to those who are not provided with the “secret of the kingdom of God” (4:11), as his disciples are provided with the secret, He states that the parables are designed to provide the crowd with knowledge but not with understanding.
That the crowd might “see but not perceive…hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven” (4:12).
This same idea appears in Jesus’ words in the other synoptic gospels, in Matthew 13:13 and in Luke 8:10. Each alludes to Isaiah 6:9, which records what the Lord commissioned of Isaiah after that prophet stated his famous line to the Lord: “Here I am! Send me.”
The Lord hides the truth from unreceptive people.
It might be said that Jesus’ profession was to help people to hear, up to a point, a point as spotted by God.
Jesus helped his disciples to hear, totally, but Bible readers know that even the disciples did not get it about much of what Jesus said, despite their possession of the Secret of the Kingdom of God and their ability to hear.
I personally know that it is not easy to hear.
I mean no factiousness when I shift this biblical reflection to physical hearing. I am deaf.
Today, I spent the late morning and early afternoon with a woman who is an audiologist. Her profession is to help people to hear.
During approximately the past twelve years, I used a pair of hearing aids that were the state of the art at the time I bought them. I am told that hearing aids have a presumptive life of about five or six years. Mine are not the state of the art any longer.
I was with this audiologist today because I have been sufficiently troubled about communication using my old hearing aids that I have bought a new set that really are the state of the art, and we were engaged in fitting and programming.
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Now I hear.
But there’s a nice human knot to tie around this package of parable, of those who hear but in various ways and for various reasons do not retain what they heard, of the Lord’s sovereign intent to withhold knowledge from those who are unreceptive in hearing, but also of Jesus’ approbation of those who do hear and who do use what they heard to spread more widely the truth of the Lord.
During our first meeting, my audiologist showed me a graphic of the inner ear, and while describing it, she said “You know, Mr. Eberhart, my God has three parts, and I think of that when I look at this picture because it shows that the inner ear has three parts, also.”
Well, you can imagine then that our forty-five minute meeting last an hour-and-a-half while we two—a sister and a brother in the Lord—delighted one another with our stories…of hearing.
And our stories continued today, while I said, “Too much reverberation,” or “There's an echo,” or “God bless you for what you do for me, that I may now hear.”
I am seventy years old.
In the Bible, the Psalmist is usually King David. However, Psalm 90 is attributed differently than usual. It is identified as “A Prayer of Moses – the man of God.”
Moses tells us in Psalm 90:10 that seventy years is our human allotment. The King James Version of the Bible elegantly renders seventy years into English as--three score years and ten.
Moses goes on to suggest that, by reason of strength, we humans might reach eighty years. But, he reminds us, that extra decade should be understood realistically for what it is, for, as he states, human life is “a span of toil and trouble: they [the years] are soon gone, and we fly away.”
The baby in the picture is Devar Collins Stanley. He’s eleven days old. He’s still got a long way to go.
Devar is Channa’s and my new grandson. He’s the fourth child of one of our daughters and her husband.
Devar was a big baby at birth, and he’s already regained his birth weight and added two ounces.
Good lookin’, ain’t he?
‘Nuff of the proud grandpa stuff.
Here’s what else I want to say.
I was born seventy years ago, in the year 1946. Because of my behavior with each of our grandchildren—including Devar—I suspect that many grandparents muse as I do upon the births of their grandchildren, wondering what the world will be like when this brand new, yelling baby reaches the age that the grandparents themselves have attained.
My maternal grandparents were Charles and Magdalena Butcher, and I know they mused this way about me because my mother told me that they did. My paternal grandparents would have mused this way, too, I suspect, except they both died before I was born. (Sadly, my sole relationship with them is through my dad’s poetry.)
So today I’m focused on the year 2087, for Devar.
What will the year 2087 have become for seventy-year-old Devar Collins Stanley, if he is blessed to attain his allocated three score years and ten?
I haven’t the faintest notion. (No, I do. But I’ll get to that below.)
When I was young and sitting on my grandmother’s lap, she used to enchant me with recitations of the technical increases she had lived through during her time. Can you believe it? When she was a girl there weren’t any airplanes or radios, and even cars were just toys for rich people.
Also, though, she bemoaned the decreases she observed during her years.
Particularly she noted the decrease of fundamental knowledge of American and western culture, that was evident to her as her years ran on. Can you believe it? When she was in school, she and everyone else memorized entire sections of books and whole poems and famous speeches and founding documents and knew by heart the big events of western history…and also, she would admire, using the basis of their thorough knowledge, they knew how to discuss these things, too.
When my grandparents mused about me, their new grandson, in 1946 and looked forward to 2017, what did they imagine the year 2017 would have become for me?
I haven’t the faintest notion.
Of course, I have my own notion of what the year 2017 has become for me, now that I am here.
There have been great advances during my seventy years—for example, technical, medical, explorational—some of which my grandparents might not even have understood in concept. Just the same, there have been further decreases in knowledge of—and even respect for the idea of—western culture, which has led to inability, because of lack of knowledge, to discuss it even rationally.
Here my point. For Devar, during his possible three score years and ten, there will be great events, some of which will be determined by commentators to be advancements, some others of which will be determined by commentators to be disasters. That’s just how it is. The total of the up compared with the total of the down?
I haven’t the faintest notion.
I do have one notion about Devar, however, of which I am certain on the basis not only of belief but of evidence.
During his three score years and ten, if he devotes himself to his life on the basis that the God of the universe, its creator and redeemer, is in active and personal search for him in order to bring him into a loving relationship, then he will be blessed, irrespective of the what ups and downs his time in history experiences.
Along with Moses, Devar might become a seventy-year-old man who says, as Moses does, “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” Psalm 10:14, ESV.
…and that’s the very same Moses who already acknowledged, just four verses earlier, that life is tough.
Now, here’s one more notion I have about Devar, and about all our other grandchildren, extant and as they may appear. When you’re a child, three score years and ten looks endless! When you’re there, not so much.
Moses suggests you may get four score years, if you have strength not only of body but of character (that latter part is editorializing by me, your grandfather). But you have good genes, and that may help you as well.
That grandmother of mine from whom you descend? She mused about things in the world until two weeks short of her one hundred second birthday. That father of mine, the poet? He mused about things in the world until three months after his one hundred first birthday.
And may you be blessed.