Sermon Manuscript: How Well Do You Hear?
It’s possible to hear something being said, but to not really hear what is being said. In our house we have an Amazon Alexa. For those of you who aren’t tech savvy it’s a small speaker that can be controlled with your voice. With it you can order things off Amazon, control the thermostat in your house, play music, and more. It has one flaw though. It doesn’t always listen to my wife. I mean, don’t get me wrong the Alexa normally hears what my wife says….but sometimes she doesn’t really hear what Sarah says. The other day, Sarah told Alexa to play Sovereign Grace Music. And so she proceeded to play a Justin Bieber song! And if you’re not familiar with Justin Bieber, you’re not missing out.
It’s possible to hear something being said, but to not really hear what is being said. Which is probably why it wasn’t uncommon for Jesus to make a distinction between those who heard what he said and those who really heard what he said. He knew that while many would audibly hear what he was saying, fewer would hear his words in a way that reached their hearts. Which is why on a number of occasions Jesus would tell a story and then say, “He who has ears, let him hear.” It was his way of saying, “Pay careful attention.” Because it’s possible to hear something being said, but to not really hear what is being said. And how well you hear will make an eternal difference in your life.
Pay careful attention then, to the story before us in Matthew chapter 13. Stories have this power, as it would seem to make us laugh or cry. Stories have the power to transport us from one place to another. Stories have a way of illustrating a point or bringing clarity. Stories communicate plot lines and gripping scenes that hold our attention. Stories have a way of conveying meaning. Stories help us remember. Even years later we can remember little details about stories we heard.
If there was ever a master storyteller, it was Jesus. He told many stories, and when he did, there often were large crowds gathered to hear him. Well, one type of story that Jesus told often was called a parable. By my count, Jesus told at least 27 parables in the Bible. What exactly is a parable? Let me start by telling you what a parable is not. Parables are not fables. A fable normally illustrates a main point or moral lesson but it uses talking animals as the main characters. Fables are not depicting real life situations. Neither are parables allegories. Allegories are stories in which every single detail has some hidden meaning. And if we do that with literature that isn’t supposed to be interpreted allegorically, we might find ourselves believing the wrong thing.
So what is a parable? A parable is a story that makes a comparison. And this comparison is supposed to illustrate for us a spiritual truth. So, what Jesus does is take complex, hard to understand, spiritual truths and lays them next to some earthly physical story. And it helps us to unlock meaning. The story about the prodigal son, the good Samaritan, the Pharisee and the tax collector, and more – all point to something deeper. Something spiritual. Earthly stories that illustrate spiritual truths.
James Montgomery Boice said, “Some sections of the Bible gives us grand theology. Some move us to grateful responses to God. But the parables break through mere words and make us ask whether there has indeed been any real difference in our lives.” You see, some of us know the right doctrines and the right things to say when we come here on Sunday morning, but we don’t actually know the biblical gospel. And there has been no change in our lives to show for it.