About Matthew 13:15

The Question: I understand the parable that begins the 13th chapter of Matthew, but I am confused by the part where Jesus explains why he speaks in parables and his last statement in verse 15. He says he doesn't want the people to see, hear and understand with their heart, so as not to heal them. I thought He wanted to heal everyone as He said in John 3:16-18.

The Response: To answer this, let us first examine John's words. The passage in question is part of a longer passage covering Christ's witnessing to Nicodemus.

1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
(John 3:1-10)

The question doesn't demand a detailed study of the entire passage, but a few things should be mentioned. In the above verses, one can identify three divisions, or "steps:"

1) Nicodemus inquires of Jesus (verses 1-3) - Nicodemus had heard of Jesus' teaching and His miracles, perhaps had been present a time or two. He acknowledged that Jesus had come from God, but not that He is the Son of God. And Jesus said to him that no one could see the Kingdom of God unless he had been born again.

2) Jesus' insight into Nicodemus (verses 4-8) The Pharisee's reply shows that he had no idea what Jesus was talking about and could not believe what he was hearing. In His reference to the wind (verse 8), Jesus is making the point that, just as the wind cannot be controlled or understood by human beings but its effects can be witnessed, so is it with the Holy Spirit. Man cannot control or understand the Spirit, but the proof of His work can be seen there is undeniable and unmistakable evidence of His action.

3) Jesus indicts Nicodemus (verses 9-10) Nicodemus was a respected religious authority, a master teacher as attested by the use of the definite article "the" in the Greek text before the word translated "master" in the KJV. Jesus' reply to him underscored the spiritual bankruptcy of Israel; not even one of her greatest teachers understood Christ's reference to spiritual cleansing and transformation that had been clearly taught in the Hebrew Scriptures. (e.g., Ezekiel 36:24-27; Numbers 19:17-19l Psalm 51:9-10; Isaiah 32:15; 44:3-5; 55:1-3; Jeremiah 2:13 and Joel 2L28-29).

I find in these ten verses a parallel to the condition of unbelievers in America today. Like Nicodemus, they are aware of Christ's teaching, having been exposed to at least some of His words during the Christmas and Easter seasons, but cannot understand them. They live in a nation that claims to be Christian, yet is spiritually bankrupt.

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
(John 3:14-15)

The reference in verse 14 is to His completed redemptive work on the cross, but the clue to answering your question is in verse 15; those who BELIEVE will not perish (will be healed), not everyone.

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:16-17) <

Here, we are informed that Jesus, God Incarnate, had been sent because of God's supreme love for the evil, sinful human world that was in open rebellion against Him. The Father gave His own beloved Son to be the substitutionary atoning sacrifice on behalf of sinful men, not to condemn the world the world was condemned for its own failure to believe.

18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18)

In this verse, the Lord is not talking about mere intellectual assent to the Gospel, but the saving faith that includes trust and commitment to Christ as Lord and Savior that is a gift from God and that results in regeneration. Muslims believe in Jesus. In fact, they honor Him as the last and greatest of the messengers that God sent to a sinful world before sending Mohammed. However, no one can be a Muslim and be saved, because they do not believe He is God nor do they believe the promises of the Gospel. Buddhists and Hindus honor historical Jesus as a "good" man, but they are not saved by that belief. Even atheists and secular humanists acknowledge the existence of historical Jesus and recognize many of the changes in the world that resulted from His ministry, but these surely are not saved by that belief.

19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
(John 3:19-21)

Christ confirms here that not all will be saved and explains why this is so. Nowhere in these verses does God say that all will be saved (healed). Only those who come out of the darkness into the light will be saved, and their deeds done in Christ will bear witness to their new nature .

And now to the Matthew verse, which is in the larger passage concerning the Parable of the Soils. As is always the case when interpreting Scripture, this verse should be read in context. You say you already understand the meaning of the parable itself, so there is no need to address that now. Let us instead look at the disciples' question and Christ's answer. (Matthew 13:10-17).

10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
(Matthew 13:10-13)

In verses 11-13, Jesus explains why He used parables to teach. He makes it clear that the ability to comprehend spiritual truth is a gift from God, graciously and sovereignly given to those who believe in Christ as Lord and Savior. Reprobates do not receive this gift and, due to their own unbelief and rebellion, are spiritually blind. The passage continues:

14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
(Matthew 13:14-15)

As He often did in His teachings, Jesus drew from the Hebrew Scriptures in verses 14 and 15 in this case Isaiah 6:9-10. The prophet reported what he had been told by the Lord Himself: that his message was to be God's instrument for hiding the truth from an unreceptive people. In citing these words, Jesus is declaring that the prophecy of Isaiah is fully satisfied in the conduct of the Pharisees. Such is not the case with His disciples:

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
--Matthew 13:16-18

Can someone accuse God of being unrighteous because he chooses some to salvation and ignores others without regard for their merits or works? Will someone say that God is arbitrary and unfair? Quoting Isaiah, Paul reminded us that God is absolutely sovereign and does elect those who will be saved; who will receive mercy. Salvation is not initiated by human volition, nor is it merited by human effort even faith is a gift from God

17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
(Romans 9:17-18)

In verse 17, Paul quotes Exodus 9:16 as proof that God indeed does sovereignly choose who will serve His purposes and how they will do it. Surely Pharaoh believed that he had come to his position by right of birth and that he had freely chosen his actions in order to accomplish his own purposes. In reality, he was there to serve God's purposes, not his own.

In freeing Israel from slavery under Pharaoh, God demonstrated His sovereign power to choose those to whom He would be merciful.. Both Moses and Pharaoh were sinners, even murderers, and were equally worthy of God's wrath, but Moses received God's mercy while Pharaoh received God's judgment. Why the difference? Because it was God's sovereign will that it be thus. The Greek word translated hardens is often used figuratively to refer to making someone stubborn or obstinate. When God hardened Pharaoh's heart, He did not actually create unbelief or some other evil. Rather, He withdrew all divine influences that ordinarily act to restrain sin, thereby allowing Pharaoh to pursue his sin unhindered.

19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
(Romans 9:19-21)

Some people in Paul's day questioned how God could blame anyone for sin and unbelief, as some do even today, when He has sovereignly determined that person's eternal destiny. (Verse 19) How does the Apostle respond to this challenge? He reminds those who would question God's perfect justice of just who they are in relation to God the Creator. His rebuke is not directed at those who have honest questions about this difficult doctrine, but those who would find fault with it in order to excuse their own sin and failure to believe.

There is no conflict between Matthew 13:15 and John 3:16-18. There is nothing in the John passage to indicate that God ever intended to heal (save) everyone, though such may be His wish.

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