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He Who Has Ears!

He Who Has Ears!

The Sea of Galilee looked like a sheet of ruffled blue fabric, as our small group found places to sit along the shore, nestled in among some rocks. The area where we sat is known as Tabgha, two miles south of Jesus’s base in Capernaum. That afternoon, with the water beside us, our group leader taught from Scripture, and we experienced the beautiful sound quality on the Sea of Galilee.

We were only a group of a couple dozen people. But when Jesus did His preaching along these same shores, He sometimes spoke to massive crowds numbering in the thousands. Which raises the question: How did Jesus preach to so many people at once without the aid of today’s microphones?

In the 1970s, a lay archaeologist, B. Cobbey Crisler, and a sound engineer, Mark Miles, decided to explore the quality of acoustics along the Sea of Galilee, and they chose a cove close to Tabgha. Crisler and Miles wanted to recreate what it might have been like to teach from a boat, as Jesus did in Mark 4:1-20.

Miles perched a sound generator on a rock about thirty feet from the shore. The generator gave out a “shrill, sustained tone,” and they found that it was possible to still hear the sound a full 300 feet away. (That’s the length of a football field, by the way.)

They then repeated the experiment, except this time Miles stood on rocks at various distances from shore, and he popped balloons to find out how far the sound carried. However, as they performed this second experiment, they discovered a curious thing. While Miles stood on the rock out in the water, he could hear the voices of people going by in cars on the road 300 feet away.

“What’s he doing down there?” one person asked from the passing car.

“I don’t know!” said another. “He’s just standing there holding some balloons.”

Suffice it to say, the sound quality along the Sea of Galilee is remarkable.

I recently wrote a stage play about George Whitefield, the Billy Graham of the 1700s in the American colonies. It was claimed that he could be heard by 25,000 people at a time! Benjamin Franklin, the famous statesman and inventor, had his doubts. So Franklin did an experiment of his own, estimating how far away he could be and still hear Whitefield preach in Philadelphia. Franklin then estimated the number of people who could have filled this space. The number he came up with was 30,000.

The point is: If you combine a powerful voice with good acoustics, sound can travel much farther than we imagine.

But even when we can hear the words, that doesn’t always mean we’re really listening. When Jesus speaks to us, He asks us to listen and respond, just as the disciples did when Jesus called them to follow Him.

Some people believe Tabgha is the very region where Jesus first called His disciples to follow him. As they worked their fishing nets, it probably wasn’t difficult for them to hear Jesus call out to them. After all, he wasn’t trying to speak to a massive crowd—just a few fishermen. But spiritually it must’ve been difficult to hear and especially hard to obey. Jesus asked the disciples to drop their fishing nets and follow Him. How many of us would give up so much to follow Jesus?

The disciples listened. They heard. They followed.

When Jesus stood in a boat and spoke to the huge crowd in Mark 4:1-20, he told the famous Parable of the Sower. And if you look closely at that parable, you’ll find that it’s all about hearing. Jesus said some people receive the word of God like seed in rocky soil; they hear the word, but they don’t have deep roots, and when persecution comes, they quickly fall away. Others receive the word like seed planted in thorns; they hear the word, but then the worries and desires of this world choke out the word, making it unfruitful.

But some people receive the word like seed planted in good soil. Jesus says they “hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear,” Jesus declared at the end the parable.

The good news is that we don’t have to be sitting by the Sea of Galilee, where the acoustics are amazing, to hear and absorb God’s Word in our lives. We just need to open our ears…and, most importantly, open our hearts.

History by the Slice Family Activity

Google Tabgha and the Sea of Galilee and check out images and maps of these locations. Then read Mark 4:1-20 and discuss these questions:

  1. In the Parable of the Sower, what did Jesus mean when He said the birds ate the seed?
  2. What happened when the soil fell in rocky soil? What does that mean?
  3. What happened when the seed fell among thorns? What does that mean?
  4. What happened when the seed fell in good soil? What does that mean?
  5. What makes “good soil?” What does it take to really hear the words of Jesus?
  6. How do you hear from Jesus in your life?
  7. What are the most difficult teachings of Jesus to follow? How can you better obey His words?

By: Doug Peterson has written 70 books including 42 books for VEggieTales and four historical novels: The Disappearing Man, The Puzzle People, The Vanishing Woman and The Lincoln League. His latest book is Red-Letter Challenge Kids, a devotional challenging kids to live like Jesus. Visit Doug at

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