“For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.” Mar 6:52
Here we see that a hard heart contributes to seeing and hearing, but not perceiving or understanding. Before we go on to fixing the problem of a hard heart, let’s just note who it was who was taking offense at Him and whose hearts were hardened so that they could not perceive or understand. It was the Sabbath go to synagogue folks. It was His own twelve disciples. None of us are above offense or hardness, so we need to take heed of ourselves and watch out!
“But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.” “Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?” And they said, “Seven.” So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?” Mar 8:17-21
Jesus affirms that it is hardness of heart that causes a person to have eyes and yet not see and perceive, and to have ears and yet not hear and understand.
There is a remedy for a hard heart. In the Scriptures, the heart is often compared to ground in which seed is sown:
“And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.” Mar 4:13-15
Now hard ground cannot be sown with seed, because nothing will grow in it. The soil is hard, and the roots of the sprouting seed cannot penetrate it to get nutrients. In order to prepare the ground for seed, first the husbandman needs to break up the hard ground, like rototilling the garden. Then if the ground is watered regularly after that, so that it remains soft, it will receive seed and a harvest will be possible from it.
“Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” Hos 10:12
Here the Scriptures reveal to us that if the ground of our hearts is hard, we can break it up by seeking the LORD, and when we do that, He will rain on our hearts so that they remain soft – not a rain of water, but of righteousness!
How does one seek the LORD? First of all, pray! He hears prayers! A simple acknowledgement that LORD, I know You are there, and I know my heart is hard, and I don’t want it to be; I want to seek You but don’t know how or where to look, will You help me? is a good starting place! Then keep praying, every day! Keep asking until you receive; keep seeking until you find; keep knocking until the door is opened to you!
Jesus taught His disciples, when they asked Him to teach them to pray, to pray this way:
“Our Father in heaven, Holy is Your name. May Your kingdom come. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Please give us this day our daily bread. Please forgive my sins, as I forgive the sins others have sinned against me. Do not let me be tempted, but deliver me from evil. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.” Mat 6:9-13
I pray this way every day, even though I have been a disciple for 45 years. I pray this way because Jesus is smarter than I am, and out of all the ways He could have chosen to answer that question, He chose to answer it with this simple prayer — I assume because that is the best prayer a disciple can pray!
And in order to seek the Lord, I would read the Scriptures, every day. They are His words breathed by His Spirit to mankind, and they will tell us true things about Himself and about ourselves! I would start with Genesis, not John. John is just about the hardest book of the Bible to understand, and knowing who God is and what He has previously said as revealed in the Old Testament helps to understand it. Genesis reveals who the LORD is and who we are and what we have to do with each other! The entire theology of the whole Bible is revealed in this book of beginnings!
There is one other person who wants our hearts to be soft, and not hard; who wants us to see and perceive, and hear and understand, more than we ourselves do – and that is God! He will help all those who ask Him for help, in sincerity and truth!