Jesus gave us these words after his Parable of the Sower. In it He says that there are four kinds of soil into which the Word of God is sown: one is like a hard foot path, another rocky shallow soil, another soil with a lot of thorn bushes in it and finally good soil that produces much fruit. So Jesus is inviting His hearers to look into their own hearts to see what kind of soil they are.
The seed is the Word of God. The Holy Spirit doesn’t create faith out of thin air; it comes through hearing God’s Word. The question Jesus is dealing with is this, if the Word of God is the means through which He creates faith, why isn’t everyone who hears the Word of God born again? Why are there people who have grown up in the church who don’t follow Christ anymore? The answer is that not everyone was “all ears”. The hearts of some people are like the hard path. Jesus explains it like this, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart” (v. 19). Hearing the Word of God is not the same thing as understanding the Word of God. There are many people who have grown up hearing the Word of God but never truly understood it. The light just didn’t go on. They may have gone to church for years but the penny never dropped. They were not “all ears”. They might even be decent people but they are not “all ears”. I can remember trying to talking to a woman I knew well. She was a church-goer and a good person from all outward signs but when we tried to talk to her about Jesus she would have this glazed over look. She couldn’t get the concept that she was a sinner and that Jesus died for her sins. She felt she was a good person. As a result the evil one would come and steal from her heart whatever she would hear at church.
The second kind of person mentioned in Jesus’ parable is described this way: “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately falls away” (vv. 20-21). When a person gets excited about the Word sadly that does not mean that they will remain faithful. Some people can become deeply stirred by a great preacher like Billy Graham or now his son Franklin Graham. They may even make efforts to change their lives. But there is more emotion than substance to their faith. There is nothing wrong with having an emotional faith but if its roots never go deep into the Word of God it will not be able to withstand the storms of life or the rejection that may cause them to lose friends. Over the years I have seen people have a very emotional response to the Gospel. I remember a young woman who came on an Alpha course. As she heard the Gospel for the first time I could see tears running down her cheeks. But in her case she went on to sink her roots deep into the Word of God because she was “all ears.” On the other hand, sadly I have seen people who started out their faith in the same way but are no longer following Jesus. A close friend of mine who was an usher in our wedding is a tragic example of this kind of soil. At one time he was writing very passionate songs about Jesus but now claims to be an atheist. He might even say, “I tried Christianity but it didn’t work.” But the problem is not that Christianity didn’t work; it’s that he found it too difficult because He was trying to do it by his own effort. Are you still “all ears”?
The third kind of person mentioned in Jesus’ parable is described this way: “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” We live in a world that can easily distract us from the Word of God. There may have been a time when someone was full of faith but when worldly cares or the pursuit of wealth came they put their faith on the back burner. They got their priorities all messed up. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” God wants to take care of our worldly needs but when we think that it is up to us to do that, we will begin to cut spiritual corners. Worship, Bible reading, prayer, fellowship will all take second fiddle to these worldly cares. Jesus says that these things “choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” Are you “all ears” for God’s Word?
Jesus describes the last kind of soil this way: “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty” (v. 23). Have you noticed what was different about this person? In the first three Jesus says that they only hear the Word of God. In this fourth kind of person He says they also understand it. That means that they comprehend the relevancy of God’s Word to their life. Conversion is not so much a decision to follow Christ as it is a revelation of what Christ has done for us and will continue to do in and through us. The person who is “all ears” says to Jesus, “I desperately need you.” Even if they fall they get back up and stay close to Him and depend on Him. The result is that they will bear fruit because they are connected to the vine. The Bible says of such a person in Psalm 1:3, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” This person is "all ears" for God's Word.
One of the things you will notice about people who are “all ears,” is that they realize that they have been like the other kinds of soil at various times and know that they are tempted to go there again. If we fail to realize these possibilities we will become complacent. If I think that I can never fall away then I am acting like Peter who had to eat his words after denying Christ. What I must see is that I need to daily receive God’s Word, let it work in me conviction, repentance and a renewal of faith in His love. It is this love of God in Christ that makes my life fruitful, a hundredfold, sixtyfold or thirtyfold.