Hiddenness And Hearing
Text: Mark 4:21–25
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Main Idea: Hearing is necessary but it is never sufficient
I. God Conceals Spiritual Truth so that He can Reveal it (Mark 4:21–22)
II. God Promises us that Diligent Hearing Leads to Greater Understanding (Mark 4:23–24)
III. God Cautions us that Lackadaisical Hearing Leads to Greater Ignorance (Mark 4:25)
Just let that last verse sink in, “For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Or to put it in more familiar terms, the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. But, Jesus is not talking about money this morning he is talking about spiritual understanding… understanding which ultimately leads to forgiveness and restoration to God. Eternal Life and Eternal Punishment hang on the singe question, “Who is Jesus Christ to you?” Which is why he warns us today that:
Main Idea:Hearing is necessary but it is never sufficient.
- God Conceals Spiritual Truth so that He can Reveal it (Mark 4:21–22)
- God Promises us that Diligent Hearing Leads to Greater Understanding (Mark 4:23–24)
- God Cautions us that Lackadaisical Hearing Leads to Greater Ignorance (Mark 4:25)
As we turn to the text today, it is important to point out that verses 21–25 function as the conclusion to “The Sower, The Seed, and The Soil” (4:1–20); not the introduction to verses 26–34).In fact, our passage is in many ways an extension of verses 10–12, where Jesus told his disciples that he taught in parables to obscure NOT to illustrate or clarify.
In other words, parables were not an attempt to turn away people who otherwise would embrace the gospel. Rather, they separated the cynical self-righteous religious leaders from those who really wanted to understand, by forcing the listeners to pursue Jesus himself for gospel explanations.
God Conceals Spiritual Truth So That He Can Reveal It (Mark 4:21–22)
Glorious not Nefarious
It is easy to miss the logic of these two verses because we are used to hearing this lamp imagery in the context of the Sermon on the Mount:
Matthew 5:14–16 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
But, in Mark, Jesus is not warning his disciples against hiding the “lamp” of their discipleship. Jesus is the lamp, which means that his messianic identity and mission are currently hidden so that he might be revealed at the proper time. Because, the purpose of hiddenness in this verse is future revelation.
God didn’t conceal the mission and identify of Jesus like:
- A thief conceals his identity.
- A terrorist conceals a bomb.
- A drug dealer conceals their stash.
- A used car salesman conceals a lemon.
- A spouse conceals his or her pornography use.
God temporarily concealed the mission and identity of Jesus for at least three reasons:
First, to judge the cynical and unfaithful religious leaders who had reduced Judaism to a mere list of rules that elevated men’s opinions above God. Men who listened to Jesus’ teaching and witnessed his miracles but foolishly determined that he was of the Devil (Mark 3:22–30). In other words, Jesus did not reveal himself to those who listened to judge and discredit.
Second, God temporarily concealed Jesus’ mission and identity so that true listeners might pursue answers in him. Jesus’ public ministry was open invitation to step out of the crowd and follow him so that men and women might find greater understanding and answers in Jesus himself.
Finally—and ultimately—God temporarily concealed Jesus’ mission and identity in order to secured his redemptive purposes; through Jesus’ wrath-bearing, justice-satisfying, relationship-restoring sacrifice on the cross.
Therefore, the picture is more like a father who hides Easter eggs on Easter or a father who fills stockings with presents on Christmas Eve… where hiding is for the purpose of seeking and finding, which is why Jesus follows up this parable of hiddenness with an exhortation and a warning (Mark 4:23–25).
God Promises Us That Diligent Hearing Leads to Greater Understanding (Mark 4:23–24)
A Common Proverb
The key to these verses is that Jesus is quoting a common market-place proverb. The Greek literally reads, “In whatever measure you measure it will be measured to you and will be added to you.” So, the proverb basically means, “You get back what you give.” In fact Jesus is quite fond of this saying. He uses it to teach about:
Matthew 7:1–4 Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?
Judgmentalism, forgiveness, and giving
Luke 6:37–38 Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.
But, here in Mark the proverb takes on a completely different issue. In this context Jesus is using the proverb to teach that, everyone who pursues Jesus for further explanations (more hearing) will receive greater revelation than those who do not. And, even more, Jesus wants us to see in this text that spiritual understanding is a divine gift not an academic pursuit or personal discovery.
Mark 4:24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.
A Divine Gift Not A Personal Discovery
Notice that the last two phrases, “will be measured” and “will be added” are in the passive voice. This means that someone else is doing the “measuring” and “adding.” It’s one thing to search for and find a hidden treasure like Indiana Jones who pieces together the evidence, sets out on expedition, and risks life and limb to uncover a long lost treasure that no one else is smart enough to find. But, it’s a completely different thing to receive a hidden treasure because you simply asked for it.
And in the case of our passage it is God himself who divinely “measures” and “adds” understanding to those who diligently pursue him.
Matthew 7:7–8 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
If God loves to give good gifts to those who ask him, then how much more does he love to give us himself when we are asking to understand him more? God will never withhold those things that will cause us to know and enjoy him more.
Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
So why is “hearing” so important? Spiritual understanding is not a human ability or achievement, but a spiritual capacity that God himself creates in human hearts through the hearing of the gospel.
Romans 10:17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Galatians 3:2Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?
Simply put, no one will come to faith in Christ apart from hearing (reading) the gospel. This is why teaching, preaching, and evangelism are so important. Yet at the same time, there is a dark “flip side” to this proverb. (Mark 4:25)
God Cautions us that Lackadaisical Hearing Leads to Greater Ignorance (Mark 4:25)
To put it bluntly, Jesus is saying that those who hear and respond to the message of the kingdom of God will receive even greater revelation, while those who reject what they have heard will be blinded even further.
In fact, as we study this gospel we are going to see this proverb play out over and over again in the disciples’ lives; despite their every faux pas, foolish mistake, and prideful failure they are going to diligently listen to Jesus and continually ask him for clarification. Yet, at the same time we are going to see the exact opposite play out in the lives of temporary, fair-weather, disciples who eventually give up their pursuit of Jesus as their initial excitement for Jesus slowly gives way to indifference, ever deepening ignorance, and outright rejection. And by the time we get to Acts 1 the massive crowds have been winnowed down to 120 people…
If You are Struggling to Understand the Gospel, Don’t Give Up.
Does the Bible clash with our culture? Yes it does. Following Jesus will not make you more popular or politically correct. No. Frankly, following Jesus might cost you everything you hold dear in this life. But, the biggest question isn’t the gospel’s compatibility with current culture or the cost of following Jesus—the biggest question is, “Is it true?”
If it is true that Mankind is under God’s wrath because their sin against him; then cultural morays and personal cost are wholly insignificant! Our greatest problem is the coming wrath of God. But, at the same time, the greatest message is that God, in his infinite mercy provided a way for sinful humans to be fully restored to him through repentance and faith in the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So if you are struggling today, embrace what you understand and pursue what you don’t in faith. Press in for more and please ask someone for help.
The Christian Gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. In the gospel. I am not superior to anyone, and at the same time, I have nothing to prove to anyone because I am convinced of this: “I am a great sinner but he is a great Savior.”
Christian, Stop Behaving as if Evangelism is a “One-And-Done” Presentation
This passage reminds us that it takes time to understand the gospel. Don’t get frustrated. Don’t worry that you cannot answer every question. Because, small conversations over time are more likely to help listeners find true answers in Jesus than single attempts.
Foster ever-deepening gospel conversations with the (8–15) people in your sphere of influence. Pray that Go will “increase and add to their measure” of understanding, so that they might truly grasp the message of the gospel. No one will come to faith in Jesus apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom 10:14–17).
Christian, Don’t Stop at the Gospel
Difficult doctrines are an invitation to ever-deeper discipleship and enjoyment of Jesus. The more aware that you and I are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able we are to drop our denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of our sin. The more you and I can see our own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to us. The more you and I are humbled and captivated by God’s grace, the more we see that his demand for obedience is an invitation for never-ending satisfaction and joy in him NOT harsh servitude to him.
“Mark does not specify the ‘them’ to whom these sayings are given. It could be the crowd (4:1–2) or the disciples (4:10–12). The nearest antecedent would suggest the latter, since no change in audience is noted;” (Mark L. Strauss, Mark, vol. 2 of Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament[Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014], 194).
Strauss, Mark, 196.