What do you (want to) see? Matthew 13.10-17
There is nothing like a really gifted speaker or teacher, like the messenger who can capture an audience and command their attention. Oh come on, you've seen the opposite in business meetings, civic settings, courtroom dramas and even from the pulpit-no matter if someone has something really important to tell, if they lack in delivery, their message falls flat. I can remember coming up with various methods to gain my classroom full of high school students' attention and keep it long enough that they would want to learn. 'Takes desire and I would dare say passion to be a truly effective teacher.
By this point in Jesus' ministry, (Matthew 13), Jesus has amassed quite a following. He has gained the attention of the people, as well as the unwelcome attention of the Jewish leaders, who have now begun to plot how to get rid of Jesus.1 The signs and wonders Jesus had done before their very eyes had the whole region afire with word about the wandering Rabbi. Even Nicodemus, a high-ranking Jewish leader and a member of the Sanhedrin, who came to Jesus at night said, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him."2
Jesus seems to make a deliberate change in where and how he is going to teach at this time; he moves from the synagogue out to where all people can access him. He moves from inside to outside.
He also employs parables to teach-simple illustrations from nature or scenes with which his listeners are familiar. Matthew writes, "His disciples came and asked him, "Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?"
He replied, "You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. 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.
This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says,
'When you hear what I say,
you will not understand.
When you see what I do,
you will not comprehend.
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.'
"But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn't see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn't hear it."3
Can you imagine having been there that afternoon as Jesus taught from the boat? Picture it: you're sitting on a canvas tarp as the water laps on the shore, and Jesus, Son of God, is teaching? Of course, the prophets of old (as Jesus references) would have longed to hear the words of the Messiah, the one of whom they had prophesied 700 years earlier! Wouldn't you put yourself in a time machine and transport yourself back in time to hear, see and even touch Jesus if you could?
Nonetheless, Jesus makes the distinction that some who were listening would hear and not listen, and because of that, his words would leave them unchanged. How tragic to have been up close and personal with the Savior of the world, and miss his life-altering words! As the old English preacher said, there is
"None so deaf as those that will not hear.
None so blind as those that will not see."4
Fact is, you cannot study the life of Jesus, or read his words with a sincere desire for truth, and be unaffected by them, unless you opt for blindness yourself. Seeing might just seem too costly for you. I hope not, as that would be tragic.
1 - Matthew 12.14
2 - John 3.2
3 - Matthew 13.10-17
4 - Matthew Henry
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