What does Matthew 13:15 mean?
ESV: For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
NIV: 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.'
NASB: FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART, AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’
CSB: For this people's heart has grown callous;their ears are hard of hearing,and they have shut their eyes;otherwise they might see with their eyes,and hear with their ears, andunderstand with their hearts,and turn back --and I would heal them.
NLT: For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes — so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’
KJV: 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.
A prophecy found in Isaiah 6:8–10 features God passing along these words. Jesus applies Isaiah's words to the Israelites of His own generation. He says that the hearts of the people have grown dull. They can barely hear with their ears, and their eyes are closed. Why? They don't want to see or hear or understand, because then they would need to repent.
In prior verses, Jesus has indicated that He's deliberately teaching in parables in order to partially obscure the truth from the crowds. Prophecies such as this show why this is an act of judgment, not an unfair trick. The people's refusal to believe comes first, and in response, God amplifies their stubbornness. Those who are sincere can, and will, still hear the message and accept it. But most will not (Matthew 7:13–14).
Both Isaiah and Jesus are explaining two primary messages. First, the people, including the religious leaders, have refused to believe that Jesus is the Messiah despite hearing His words and seeing His miracles. Second, and for that reason, God has ensured they will not believe now despite hearing Jesus teach in parables and seeing further miracles. The people are responsible for refusing to understand what is obvious, and, as a result, God has acted to keep them from understanding in the future (Proverbs 29:1).
Matthew 13:10–17 comes in between Jesus' telling of the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1–9) and His explanation of that story (Mathew 13:18–23). The disciples ask why Jesus so often uses parables when teaching crowds of people. According to Jesus, the disciples are privileged to know secrets that the prophets and righteous people longed to know. His use of unexplained parables, in part, is because Israel has rejected Jesus as the Messiah. This will fulfill Isaiah's prophecy about those with dull hearts who will hear without understanding. Otherwise, they would turn and be healed.
Matthew 13 focuses mainly on a series of parables. Jesus first describes these to a large crowd along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Later, in a house, He explains to the disciples the meanings of the parables of the sower, the weeds, and the fish caught in the net. Jesus then travels to Nazareth, teaches in the synagogue, and is rejected by the people of His original hometown.
Matthew 13 follows Jesus from the overcrowded house at the end of the previous chapter to a crowded beach on the Sea of Galilee. He teaches a large crowd in a series of parables, which He doesn't fully explain. However, He reveals their meaning to His disciples inside a nearby house. Jesus pictures the kingdom of heaven as a sower, a sabotaged field of wheat, a mustard seed, and a pearl dealer, among other things. He then travels to His original hometown of Nazareth where He is rejected by the people He grew up with. This leads Matthew back to depictions of Jesus' miracles, after sadly recording John the Baptist's death.
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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