See. Hear. Understand.
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 13:13 (Holman) “For this reason I speak to them in parables, because
looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or
Jesus’ parables showed the listeners the truth about themselves. They were not seeing, hearing, or understanding. Thus, they should have been investigating.
Their being puzzled proved they missed key facts, but they didn’t take time to seek out the meaning of this missing data. The Twelve asked; the others didn’t.
The Disciples received answers, deeper insight. Truth-seekers always find. Our Master promised, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, because they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). All who desire Jesus shall accomplish.
A curious mind, coupled with a seeking attitude, succeeds. Humility and prayer work. Millions are unnecessarily content to let the Bible remain a hard-to-understand book. They make it peripheral, not integral, superfluous, not vital. Don’t be one of them. Strive to see, hear, and understand.
Matt. 13:14 Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: “You will
listen and listen, yet never understand; and you will look
and look, yet never perceive.”
We are given physical organs of sense to process spiritual input, but often they fail us. Isaiah predicted this would happen. It did, in Jesus’ day, and in ours.
Physical senses are often barriers, not bridges, to God. We can be deeply moved by Earthly realities, yet at the same time miss Heavenly lessons in them.
An art lover can be moved by an artist’s rendering of the creation, yet miss the Artist who performed the creation. A bird-lover can sit in a forest, mesmerized by sights and sounds, yet never contemplate the One who first thought of a bird.
An environmentalist can love mother earth without considering Father God. A philanthropist can highly value the giving of his own wealth for humanity without ever appreciating the One who gave His only begotten Son for sinners.
Darkness is bad when outward, worse when inward and spiritual. It is dreadful to say of spiritual realities, “I can’t see. I can’t hear. I can’t understand.”
Matt. 13:15a “For this people’s heart has grown callous; their ears are hard
of hearing, and they have shut their eyes;”
Isaiah predicted not only what would happen, but also why it would occur. Listeners who don’t understand have hardened their heart, covered their ears, and closed their eyes. They chose to become insensitive to spiritual impressions.
“Callous,” a rough word, happens to a heart if a listener chooses not to hear and see. One way God punishes us is by letting us have our way–a scary thought! “Lord, rescue me from me. Don’t let me become more of what I am by nature.”
Don’t grow numb to spiritual things. Never treat them as commonplace. If we lose awe and wonder, the passion to know more, we will be in serious trouble. Ever be wanting to see, hear, and understand.
Some decided long ago the Bible no longer applied to them. They early on decided some sins were really bad. They overcame these, and have felt ever since they arrived. Years ago they let churchmanship eclipse spirituality in importance.
A callous heart is not good. Maclaren pictures the danger well. Those whose spiritual lives were once volcanoes spewing lava become glaciers. “Then comes ice instead of fire, frost instead of flames, snow instead of sparks. It is as if some magician waved a wand and stiffened them into paralysis” (Maclaren). Refusing to take time to see and hear, they do not understand.
God forgive us for being bored with what makes Heaven happy and Hell angry. We are the Universe’s only cognitive creatures careless about the spiritual.
We sleep while demons fight against us, and angels engage the warfare on our behalf to minister to us. God give us merciful violence against ourselves to rouse us. Don’t fall asleep under the Gospel too often or the Lord may let you slumber awhile. Stay awake. Be alert. See. Hear. Understand.
Matt. 13:15b “Otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their
ears, understand with their hearts and turn back – and I
would cure them.”
Why do people reject Jesus’ teachings? Because in order to see, hear, and understand, they would have to turn, leave their sin. This is what they won’t do.
Christianity can answer all the intellectual questions. We have adequate Apologetics aplenty. Reception or rejection of Jesus usually hinges not on cognitive factors, but on matters of morality. “This, then, is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed” (John 3:19-20).
When all other verdicts are in, the last hurdle to jump to enter Christianity is usually, “Am I willing to give up my sin?” Love of sin becomes the crux.
Matt. 13:16 “But your eyes are blessed because they do see, and your ears
because they do hear!”
Note the present tense. The blessing that results from seeing, hearing, and understanding Christ’s words is not delayed. The benefits are ours here and now.
We believers talk often of what we give up to become Christians. What about the blessings people give up by not following Christ?
Judas lost his opportunity to write a fifth Gospel. The rich young ruler lost his chance to be another Paul. Herod gave up the chance to be as loved as David.
Matt. 13:17 “For I assure you: Many prophets and righteous people longed
to see the things you see yet didn’t see them; to hear the
things you hear yet didn’t hear them.”
We often take for granted the very spiritual lessons our forebears panted after. They would have given anything to know the story of the Gospel. They would have loved to see, hear, and understand the truths we have at our disposal.
Job (9:32-33) grieved, “He is not a man like me, that I can answer Him, that we can take each other to court. There is no one to judge between us, to lay his hand on both of us.” I wish I could have told Job the words of Paul, “There is one God and one mediator between God and man, a man, Christ Jesus” (1 TM 2:5).
Job (23:3) lamented, “If only I knew how to find Him.” I wish I could have told him Jesus’ words, “The one who has seen Me has seen the Father” (JN 14:9b).
Moses asked, “Let me see Your glory” (EX 33:18). God placed him in the crevice in the rock, passed by, and let Moses see only His afterglow. I wish I could have told Moses what John later saw. “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory” (John 1:14a).
Isaiah (64:1a) prayed, “If only You would tear the Heavens open and come down.” He did, Isaiah, He did. God “emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7).
Simeon held the baby Jesus in his arms and told God he was now ready to die, for he had seen the salvation of the Lord (Luke 2:29-30). The baby who rested in Simeon’s hand now resides in our hearts. Let us not take it for granted.
Our forebears saw only shades and shadows. “History was a partly closed book to other ages. But the Christian age sees the pierced hands of Christ open the book” (Butyric). May we never leave this treasure unused.
They longed for the kingdom of God to come. The King has come and has spoken. Our response to His words must be to see, hear, and understand.