Whoever Has Ears, Let Them Hear

In the gospel of Mark we find what Bible scholars call "the Messianic secret." Specifically, throughout Mark Jesus seems very keen in keeping his identity under wraps, a secret.

In some places, this secret can seem extreme, a way of so hiding Jesus's identity that some people are purposefully left out and excluded from the kingdom. For example, in Mark 4 Jesus is teaching in parables, the meaning of which are hard to understand. And Jesus seems to say, that's exactly the point, I don't want people to understand. He then quotes a very troubling text from Isaiah:
Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,

“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!"
The reference to Isaiah seems to suggest that Jesus is using parables to prevent people from seeing and hearing, and therefore throwing up a barrier to their repentance and forgiveness.

That's an exceedingly strange situation. Doesn't Jesus want people to be forgiven?

The text from Isaiah is tough to understand, one of Jesus's "hard sayings." But if we keep reading in Mark 4 I think we do see that Jesus does want people to respond to his message. He says:
He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”

“Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” 
Jesus isn't putting the lamp under a bowl. He wants the kingdom proclamation to shine. Visibility is what he's after. Trouble is, people aren't hearing the message correctly. Jesus instructs that we must "consider carefully what you hear." The "measure we use" when listening to Jesus is critical. If you're hearing Jesus correctly, if you have "more," more of the kingdom message will be understood by you. If, however, you're missing Jesus's point, if you measure him with "less," you're going to miss everything Jesus is saying, and even what you get of Jesus is going to get "taken away," lost in your miscomprehension.

This is why in Mark 4 Jesus starts his parables by saying, "Listen!" and then repeats the refrain "If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear."

The parables, then, aren't obstacles as much as they are tests. The kingdom is disclosed, but only to the one who "hears" Jesus, to the one who "measures" him rightly. But to those who don't "hear" Jesus, who misunderstand who he is and what the kingdom is all about, the parables prevent people from distorting and amplifying the wrong message.

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