Summary: Listening and hearing. (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request – email:


Sir William Osler who was the professor of medicine at Oxford University,

• Had a class full of students before him;

• And wanting to emphasize the importance of observing details,

• He reached down to his desk and picked up a bottle containing ’urine’,

• Holding it high, he announced:

"This bottle contains a sample for analysis.

It’s often possible by tasting it

to determine the disease from which the patient suffers".

• Suiting action to words,

• He dipped a finger into the fluid and then into his mouth, and continued-

"Now I am going to pass the bottle around.

Each of you do exactly as I did.

Perhaps we can learn the importance of this technique and diagnose the case".

• The bottle made its way from row to row

• Each student gingerly poked his finger in and sampled the contents with a frown.

Dr Osler then retrieved the bottle and startled his students with the words:

"Gentlemen, now will you understand what I mean when I speak about details.

Had you been observant you would have seen that I put my

index finger into the bottle but my middle finger into my mouth!"

• They saw and yet they missed the point exactly;

• How many of us do exactly the same when it comes to the things of God?

• We can be like those described in verse 12;

• "Ever seeing but never perceiving, ever hearing but never understanding"

So often we just see and do not perceive, and not just in the spiritual realm:

• ill: In every day life:

• ill: Birds instead of sparrows or robin’s etc,

• ill: Trees instead of birches or willows etc,

• ill: People instead of individuals, characters.

• We miss out on the details, and therefore we miss out;

• On the beauty and enjoyment that we can receive from these things.

Now maybe like me you’re missing out on much of what God wants for you:

• In church:

• You have heard sermons about God instead of hearing the voice of God!

• In your quiet times (daily readings):

• You’ve just been meeting with a printed page a set of notes,

• Which fill a few minutes of your time;

• But do not fill the need in your heart,

Then maybe this (morning / evening):

• We can just learn or re-learn some lessons that we might help us observe;

• And hear God clearer and better in the weeks ahead.

(1). Missing out

Now some times there are good reasons why we miss out on what God has to say to us:

(1) Physical factors:

• A church may not be well ventilated, warm heat effect us.

• Bad lighting, bad seat or some man mountain sitting in front of you.

(2) Personal factors:

• Lack of sufficient sleep.

• Medication we are taking can effect us.

(3) Dull, boring preacher:


• A man went to see his doctor for advice about being cured of snoring.

• The doctor asked, “Does your snoring disturb your wife?”

• The patient replied,

• “Does it disturb my wife? Why it disturbs the entire congregation.”


• The people certainly could not use these as excuses;

• For missing out on what Jesus wanted to tell them:

(1) Physical factor was cured when Jesus verse 1-2: "Got into a boat"

• So all could see him and all could hear him,

• Use the acoustics of the water to carry his voice.

(2) The crowd seemed to have time and be prepared to spend listening to Jesus.

(3) They certainly did not have a boring preacher.

• They had the best!

• They had the wisest!

(2). Why Parables?

• Verse 2: "He taught them many things by parables".

• Why use parables, stories? Why not just tell them straight ?

• Note: Jesus did not invent parabolic teaching;

• There are at least 58 parables in the Old Testament.

There are a number of reasons why Jesus teaches by parables:

(1) To reveal truth in an interesting way.

• We all like to hear stories, interest us, recapture our attention, attract us;

• Verse 10: "Desire to know more".

(2) Make known mysteries

• Verse 11 "Secrets".

• By comparing spiritual truths with things already known.

• Sometimes his parables acted like windows

• That let in the light and made clear difficult theological truths.

(3) Make known new truths to ’interested’ hearers.

• He did not always speak simply and clearly at times he

• Required that they seek out the truth and not just look for it.


Litter and £10.

(4) To hide and conceal truth from the disinterested hearers and those rebellious at heart (Vs 12):

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