In Matthew 13, where we find the parable of the sower, Jesus quotes the prophet, Isaiah. The quote comes from Isaiah 6, but Jesus changes it up just a bit to fit what He is telling His disciples. As an aside, this is permissible when you are the Son of God. It should not be attempted by us mere mortals though. The results are seldom good.
Anyhow, paraphrasing Isaiah, Jesus says this.
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.
To understand the quote in it's proper context, some background might be necessary here. To this point in His ministry, Jesus had managed to create some powerful enemies among the elite religious leadership of the Jewish nation. They were not liking what He was putting down. If Jesus really was the Messiah, He was not the one they wanted. They had already begun plotting to entrap and kill Him.
This is why Jesus changes His sermon strategy. He begins to share His message to the people in parables - or stories which will reveal the truth about the things He wishes to say to His people. The stories are not complex from our 21st century point of view. We have the benefit of the years of study put in by scholars over the last 2000 years as well as the Holy Spirit to help us understand what Jesus meant in these stories.
The people of Jesus' time though, were having issues with His method. Even His disciples said He was speaking in riddles to some extent. Nevertheless, it had to be done this way to slow the plans of those that wished to execute Jesus. It was not yet time for the final events of Jesus' life to unfold and if He was only a story telling Messiah, then He was not as much of a threat to the religious establishment. And so, He speaks to the people and His disciples in parables.
Scroll up and look at the quote again. Jesus is talking about the willful ignorance of the people of His day and how, even though they see and hear the things He has done and said, they do not understand. They do not want to know the truth that Jesus is trying to share with them because it would require change and that change would upset everything. This is especially true for the religious leadership of the time. Jesus was upsetting the establishment apple cart in a way that would make it impossible to upright it. Power, money and authority were at stake. Business as usual in the Jewish state would have to change if they accepted His message.
Beyond all that, Jesus was making many people uncomfortable. He was telling people that they had to love God, but also love their enemies and their neighbor. That would mean associating with people that were...formerly unacceptable...to put it politely. It's one thing to overthrow the established order; quite another to make people uncomfortable. From the Jewish perspective of the time, that was just rude.
Jesus, through Isaiah, indicates that the reason for all this is the hardheartedness of the people. If they would just open up their hearts and minds to what He is saying and doing, they would experience His spiritual healing, but that was not to be the case.
As I thought about this, I found myself wondering if maybe we in evangelical churches in America have gotten a bit blind and deaf to the things Jesus wants us to be doing. We hear and see, but do we understand and perceive what our real mission is to be? Are we afraid to overthrow the established order, experience the discomfort and extend love to the people that presently hate us? We like to think we have the Truth. I think we do. What are we doing with it? Do we understand it?
We are supposed to be bringing the grace and truth of Jesus to the world. Can we do that when we have unacknowledged filters on who we associate with, who we let into our churches and what we are willing to do in terms of ministry in church? Are their groups that we will not minister to in the world because it is just too hard or scary or gross in our minds?
Christian, we need some review here. Go read one of the gospels and then tell me we are doing what Jesus expected if you can. Read, understand, perceive and listen to that still small voice of the Holy Spirit and see if you are not convicted. If you are convicted, then healing is not far off.
Am I off base here? What do you think? Mull it over friends.