Reflection on Mark 4.26-34

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it.

Throughout my life I have often found myself hearing someone speak whilst realising that I have not understood a word that has been said. As both wise and foolish words have been poured out my capacity to comprehend has been challenged. This human capacity to ‘switch off’ has led to misunderstanding and dissent in my own life, just as it has in everyone’s lives at different times and in different circumstances. 

Throughout his ministry Jesus taught the people about the Kingdom of Heaven and about the joy of being in a meaningful relationship with his Heavenly Father. He knew that these subjects were too vast for the human brain to completely comprehend. To help us understand better he enshrined his teaching in parables, short stories and scenarios that were underpinned by divine truth. Like all good teachers, Jesus sought to find a way around our capacity to hear without really listening.

As we hear the words of Scripture, as we are invited to embrace the Good News of Jesus Christ, we often fail to comprehend the message we are hearing. We allow the words to wash over us and then we distort them into a shape that suits us. Rather than listening to the message we take it as a starting point. Rather than following its teaching to the letter we introduce moments of compromise, often without realising just how far we are straying away from God and into the arms of the devil.

Throughout human history we have seen terrible atrocities performed because of people’s mishearing and misunderstanding of a message. On Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January) we remember the victims of just such a terrible moment in human history; we hear of those who followed an eloquent but evil man who led many, otherwise good people, down a path of cruelty and persecution. We remember those who failed to hear the message of love, or who interpreted it as a message of weakness; we remember those who chose to go with the herd and attempt to eliminate vast numbers of their fellow human beings … because their hearing was not backed up by proper listening and understanding.

Today we pray that the true message of Christ may be heard and heeded by all. Today we pray that Jesus’ message of self-giving love and selfless service might become rooted in our very being. Today we pray that the death of ‘self’ might bring about a harvest of righteousness.