In Mark 4:11 Jesus says, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God.” The word ‘secret’ can be translated ‘mystery’. Mark uses the term in the sense of something only God knows and only God can reveal. Today’s reading emphasizes God’s desire to make the mystery of the kingdom known—a lamp placed where it can be seen, not hidden. Again, read the parable with God’s Kingdom in mind.
Prepare to listen. Sit still, take a few deep breaths then pray: Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. (Psalm 86:11)
Read Mark 4:21-25
21He said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? 22For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ 24And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. 25For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’
A colleague once told me a story of an interaction with his three-year-old grandchild. She was chatting non-stop and he was only pretending to listen. The child got annoyed with him and finally demanded, “Grandpa, listen to me with your eyes!”
Jesus demands something similar in v24. ‘Pay attention’ is a Greek word that could be translated ‘see’. In other words, Jesus commands, ‘See what you hear’ (Mitzi Minor. 2001, p. 28). Good listening involves our whole being—seeing what we hear; listening with our eyes. But, sometimes what we see isn’t what it seems or what we think. And this is most certainly true with these parables. We must avoid jumping too quickly to our conclusions and instead keep looking and looking until we see something that may be hidden from the casual reader or the ‘outsider’ (the one who neither knows nor believes in Jesus). The message of the kingdom (the lamp) must be placed front and center so that those with eyes to see may indeed see.
‘Pay attention’ could also be a warning: “Beware what you hear” (as in Myers. 2015, p. 176); or “Consider carefully what you hear” (as in the NIV). This is followed by two sayings difficult to interpret. They could be related to worldly expectations that assume if a person desires to get ahead, they should play by the rules (however biased) and expect the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer (Myers suggests this interpretation, 2015, p. 178). Jesus warns us to resist this worldly assumption because it isn’t the way of the kingdom of God.
What do you see? How does a kingdom perspective change what you see and hear?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Lord Jesus, I hear you demand that I must ‘see what I hear.’ Lead me to paces where I hear the right stuff and train my heart and mind to see what needs to be seen but may not be obvious. Help me keep your kingdom vision in view at all times. In your name, Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world seeing what you hear.