Again [Jesus] began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. Then He taught them many things by parables.––Mark 4:1–2
Imagine for a moment that you are one of that multitude, and fill in the details.
Did you plan to be there, or did you stumble upon this outdoor event? Are you with your friends or family, or are you alone?
Is it summer or winter? Are you feeling a bit chilly standing so close to the seafront, or are you looking for some shade from the burning sun? Are you taking a deep breath of the bracing sea air, or is a gentle sea breeze bringing relief in the heat of the day?
Can you see clearly what’s happening? How close are you to the water’s edge? Have you found yourself a vantage point, or is your view obscured by the crowd? What kind of boat is He sitting in? Is the sea calm, clear as glass, or does it look a bit choppy?
Do you have any troublesome thoughts that maybe you should be somewhere else? Are you wondering whether you can spare the time to stand around? Are you thinking perhaps you should be taking care of some crops, managing your animals, getting provisions from the market, visiting a sick relative?
You’ve probably heard all kinds of things about this Teacher. Have you heard Him speak before? Do you wonder how much is true? Do you question whether He really has the power to heal people by His voice and the touch of His hand? Could He heal you?
“Listen,” He begins.1 Can you hear what He’s saying? Do you understand what He’s talking about?
His talk is over now. The crowd is dispersing, and you’re on your way. Perhaps you don’t really feel like chatting; you want to be quiet and alone with your thoughts, to try to absorb what He said. What does it have to do with you? Has it changed your outlook?
That day, Jesus finished His talk by declaring, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”2 Those who got the most from what Jesus said that day were the ones who listened.
Listening is not merely opening a Bible, skimming over paragraphs and speeding through lines. It’s meditating on what we read, applying it, even reliving it in our imagination. And when we do, we might just discover something new and wonderful.