Matthew 13:13

ESV This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
NIV This is why I speak to them in parables: 'Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
NASB Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
CSB That is why I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand.
NLT That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.
KJV Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

What does Matthew 13:13 mean?

The disciples have asked Jesus why He teaches the larger crowds in parables (Matthew 13:10), rather than in the straightforward way He did in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5—7). Jesus has said the disciples have been privileged to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven; that blessing has not been granted to Israel, at large. He has added that to those who already have this knowledge more will be given. Those who do not have it will have whatever they do have taken away (Matthew 13:11–12).

In this passage, Jesus states clearly that He is teaching in parables both to put the truth in front of the people and to keep them from fully understanding it. He says that though seeing they don't really see and that though hearing they do not really hear. In short, they don't understand the secrets of the kingdom of heaven even though He is presenting them in the form of these small stories and descriptions. This is both because of their own resistance, and God's intervention.

Taken out of context, this might seem cruel, as if God is deliberately withholding information from those who are sincerely seeking it. However, in the previous chapter Jesus condemned the Pharisees and "this generation" of Israelites for their unbelief. Most people express a shallow, superficial interest, but not a truly repentant, submissive faith (Matthew 7:13–14). During the Exodus, God responded to Pharaoh's stubbornness (Exodus 8:32) by making him even more stubborn, as a form of judgment (Exodus 14:4). Jesus is presenting a picture of understanding the truth being both rejected by the people of Israel and kept from them.

Israel, through her religious leaders and the nation as a whole, has rejected Jesus as the Messiah. At least part of this is because He did not fit their conception of what Messiah should do in the kingdom He should establish. Rather than submit to what they see and hear, they resist. So, Jesus says He will keep the religious leaders and the people from understanding. This, also, fulfills prophecy, as explained in the following verses (Matthew 13:14–15).
What is the Gospel?
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