Jesus as he looks at the crowd identifies 4 types of listener, notice that this is not about a one off decision it’s about an ongoing pattern in life of paying close attention to his words, of dwelling on them and living by them. I want you to help by suggesting titles for each one.
1. (12) Teflon hearing/in one ear out of the other
This person doesn’t hear, in fact Jesus says his words are snatched away by the devil so that there is no chance whatsoever of a response. The word lies on top of the hard heart so the devil can just pluck it away. It may be because of prejudice, or because of preconceptions, some in the crowd have hardened their hearts to Jesus.
2. (13) Easy listener/Easy come easy go
This is the person who hears and initially at least seems to respond to Jesus words. But then, well something goes wrong or it gets difficult, maybe someone ridicules them for being a Christian, or they come across something in the Bible and actually I just don’t want to do that, I like the way I am now, I don’t want to change, that can't be right that goes totally against society... and so they fall away.
3. (14) British listener/the choke/the leisured listener
Again these listeners hear the word of God, they hear Jesus message of grace and they begin to respond, there are signs of change. But then life gradually begins to smother it. Notice that at no point does the person reject the word, at no point do they decide no I don’t believe it, it just gradually becomes less important and slips away.
I think it’s our biggest danger. We hear Jesus words and we respond to his message, but then gradually there are the children to take to school and clubs, there is the parents evening, there is the career to continue with, there is the house to look after and improve, there is the DIY to be done, there is… and so on and so on. Maybe in our day its the leisure and search for entertainment that kills of the seed. In the tyranny of the urgent God’s word gets lost and smothered and doesn’t mature. Its potential remains unrealised and that is a tragedy.
4. (15) Fruitful/productive/active
But the last group of listeners that Jesus identifies are the ones who bear fruit. Do you see the words that Jesus uses to describe these listeners? They have a noble and a good heart, they hear his words and they keep hold of them, they will not let them go even when things are hard, they will not let other things pull it away and they keep on trusting in it. And what does it produce? It produces fruit, it changes the person who listens to it. This word of God produces a life that is marked by grace.
Do you see the encouragement here, Jesus is giving us something to aspire to. How is your listening? Do you have ears to hear? True hearing looks like listening to Jesus words continually, this is not about a one off it is about a continual listening, about on ongoing changing as we hear Jesus words to us. It's striking isn’t it that Jesus say there will be these 4 responses to the word as he teaches it. And there will be those 4 responses to it as we teach God’s word, some won’t listen, some will tragically not realise their potential even though they seem to respond, but others will bear fruit.
If Jesus is who he claims to be – God’s Son – then his words matter. His challenge to the crowd and to us is will you investigate them, will you listen to them, will you hold on to them tightly and be changed by them? Will you go on listening to them, will they become what you live your life by? And the encouragement is that as we do so they will bear fruit because that is what his word obeys does.