“This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
“In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
“But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” (verses 13-16)
These verses are part of Jesus’ explanatory commentary on the classic parable he has just told regarding the Sower and the Seed.
A farmer goes out into his fields and casts seed by the handful, scattering it indiscriminately far and wide, typical of Middle Eastern practices of the time. The same good seed gets thrown each time, but it produces very different results depending on where it lands. Landing on the hard soil of an adjacent pathway, it doesn’t stand a chance – it never penetrates the ground, leaving it vulnerable to birds which come and gobble it up. The seed landing on rocky ground gets a start, but the depth of soil is so thin that roots never get firmly established and the blazing mid-day sun scorches all life out of the seed. Other seed is choked and strangled as thorns and weeds grow up around it, robbing it of sun and moisture and a fighting chance. But the seed landing on good soil simply thrives. It germinates, its roots going down into rich soil, the green sprout stretching up toward the sun, then bringing forth rich greenery and fruitfulness. It produces a harvest thirty-fold, sixty-fold, or a hundred-fold. Amazing.
Jesus ends the parable by saying, “Whoever has ears, let them hear” (verse 9). This is the lesson the parable drives home – it is also the necessary means for understanding that lesson in the first place. You’ve got to have hearing ears and seeing eyes. If you don’t, it’s as if the seed never gets truly planted. There is never any real possibility for growth. Isaiah’s prophecy comes to fulfilment: “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; … ever seeing but never perceiving.”
The good seed, of course, is the Gospel itself – the good news of salvation and new life brought about by Jesus. For those who see and hear and understand and turn, there is healing from the Lord.
The great tragedy in Jesus’ day, as in ours, is that so many have blind eyes and deaf ears. The good news never gets received into hearts, wills, and minds. It never causes a turning away from sin and a revolutionary turning to God, simply because it is never truly embraced in the first place.
Two applications come to mind from this parable and Jesus’ commentary:
(1) Pray. Pray desperately for those with blind eyes and deaf ears. All is not lost. The Gospels are full of stories of Jesus healing these very maladies. But healing must come in order for new life to start – eyes and ears must open, or the good seed will be lost.
(2) Submit. Submit your own eyes and ears to Jesus again, constantly. For, although we may have received salvation and begun new life, it is still dangerously possible to grow dull and miss the further growth and fruitfulness the Lord intends for our lives.
“Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” May the blessing continue.
Lord Jesus, I pray for family members and friends, neighbours and co-workers who cannot yet see and hear. Heal them with sight and hearing that they may receive Good News. And keep my own eyes and ears always open and responsive to you.
Reflect: In your own circles, who needs to have eyes and ears miraculously opened to the Gospel? In your own life, pray for an ongoing anointing of sight and hearing.