Ears to Hear but Cannot Hear | Mark 4:9–13
And 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.’ 13 And he said to them, ‘Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?’ ”
An unfortunate reality of this fallen world are physical ailments and handicaps, such as hearing loss. It’s a result of the indwelling sin that touches every fiber of our being. Our first parents smuggled it into our genome. As a result, we naturally have ears to hear the words of Christ, but we’re born spiritually deaf, and just to be doubly-sure, some still place their hands over their ears.
God must cure spiritual deafness. With a good parallel to this discussion, Paul said that the gospel is veiled “to those who are perishing,” because “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers” (2 Cor 4:3–4). The only hope for spiritual blindness is if the same God who spoke light into existence shines “in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (v. 6). Similarly, God must speak into the ears of the spiritually deaf for them to hear Him.
Consider that Jesus talks about those who have “been given the secret of the kingdom of God” and “those outside” (v. 11). Paul explains a similar thought in 1 Corinthians 2:7, 13–14—“But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God… And we impart this… by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God… because they are spiritually discerned.” Only those that God chooses will understand.
People are still responsible for their spiritual deafness. Everyone’s responsible for rejecting Christ’s command to hear, and in Mt 13:13, Jesus indicates that they refuse. Mark shows that Jesus’s quote from Isaiah 6:9–10 is judgment applied against the scribes and Pharisees—hardening their hearts like He hardened Pharaoh’s heart.
Those who absolutely refuse to come to Him may find Him later unwilling to forgive. As Isaiah 55:6 says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;” “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2).