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There are often passages in the Bible that seem a little contradictory or complicated when we read them.

Unfortunately, the reaction of the majority of Christians is often the same: they ask themselves the question, think for a few minutes and end up forgetting this passage that is a bit embarrassing for them. Another category of Christians will take this passage to the letter or purely literally, which leads to heresies that sometimes even make those who believe them suffer, because of a wrong implementation in their personal lives.

For example, let us take one of these passages, when Jesus addresses His apostles and tells them in Mark 4:12  That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

If we read this passage without understanding it, we come to certain erroneous conclusions such as:

- God doesn't want everyone to be saved.

- Jesus did not want everyone to be able to know the Gospel.

These two statements above are of course false and do not correspond at all to the nature of God or Jesus.

But then why did Jesus say that?  Would Jesus be afraid that people would be converted and all their sins forgiven?

If we take the context of this passage, Jesus has just given a parable to the Jewish people who followed him. This parable is the so-called "parable of the sower," which is well known and can be found in Mark 4:3-9.

Then Jesus meets privately with the apostles and His close followers. There they ask Him for an explanation of this parable because they did not understand it.

Then Jesus explains to them the parable of the sower, which we can find an explanation in Matthew 13:18-23.

But before giving the interpretation of this parable of the sower, Jesus said to them about those to whom He had given this parable a few moments earlier: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them”.

We can also find the account of this story in Matthew's gospel in chapter 13 and verses 11 to 17.

Matthew 13:11-15   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. 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. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 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: 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.

Here we have a little more detail on this word of Jesus.

We can then see that Jesus is only quoting a word of the prophet Isaiah when He says in Matthew 13:14-15 By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 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.

It is the same word of Jesus that we can find in Mark 4:12  "That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them”.

We can now easily understand that Jesus was only quoting a word from the book of Isaiah when He pronounced this sentence before giving the explanation of the parable of the sower to His close disciples.

This word of the prophet Isaiah is found in Isaiah 6:10 "Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

But then what did Isaiah mean when he spoke these words, which were taken up by Jesus in the Gospels? In the context of the book of Isaiah, Isaiah receives a vision of God that will be fulfilled for the people at that time, but which will also be prophetic, representing years later, the coming of Jesus among the people of Israel, who will (for the most part) reject him.

We find this prophecy here:

Isaiah 6:1-10  In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

We won't go into all the details of this prophecy, but we will simply point out a few details to explain the passage of Mark 4:12, which we are looking at today.

This prophecy given to Isaiah brings together all the symbolism of the coming of Jesus to take away the sin of the world. Passages such as these show this:

Then this prophecy about Jesus continues when God says that the people will hear but will not understand, that they will see but will not understand. It is very important to understand that the word given to Isaiah concerns him at the moment, and it is some parts of that word that God gives him that are prophetic for the coming of Jesus as the Saviour of mankind.

That is why, if we take the following passage from Isaiah 6:9-10 literally  “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed”.  … we might then conclude that Jesus came to blind the Jewish people to His coming, and to keep them in ignorance of a coming Messiah.

Such an interpretation does not fit at all with all the passages in the Old Covenant which show and warn the Jewish people of the coming of a saviour, a Messiah who will come to save them from their condition.

That is why it is very important to act with the whole spirit of the Bible when trying to decode a prophecy. Everything must be in perfect correlation with the nature of God and with everything He says in the Bible.

The passage from Isaiah concerning Jesus is therefore this one: “Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.”… “lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed ”

If, when Jesus was among them, the Jewish people saw without grasping and heard without understanding, it is not because Jesus would have made them not understand. If the majority of the Jewish people did not understand that Jesus was their Messiah, it was because of the hardness of their hearts, because of their mentality at the antipodes of the person of God. They simply reaped the result of their way of thinking. In no way did Jesus make it more difficult for them, or blind them in any way.

So if we now return to our original context where Jesus is sitting talking to His close disciples and apostles, He is simply confirming that this prophetic word of Isaiah about the people of Israel is being fulfilled before their eyes. Jesus is only confirming the harshness that God had already seen in the hearts of this people.

Mark 4:12  “ That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.”

So Jesus is not wishing that the Jewish people do not realize that He is their Messiah, nor does He wish that they do not understand what He teaches, much less wish that they repent of their sins or be forgiven.

On the contrary, Jesus came for all people to take away the sin of the world. His will is that everyone should be saved without any exception.

We could therefore paraphrase this quote from the prophet Isaiah given by Jesus like this: "God saw beforehand that the majority of this people would remain in their hardness, not wishing to change their minds through repentance. Because of their own decisions to refuse their Messiah, they see but do not understand, they hear but do not understand. Because of this, they will not be able to turn around in their thoughts, and their sins will not be forgiven"

So it is in this spirit that Jesus quoted this prophecy of Isaiah, just before explaining this parable of the sower. Jesus knew that even if He had to explain this parable clearly, a good part of the people would reject it, and this is simply what He sadly declared in Mark 4:12

We can find this passage from the prophet Isaiah in several other passages of the New Testament such as the Gospel of Matthew and Mark :

Luke 8:10  “And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.” Acts 28:24-27 “And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,  Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them”.

John 12:37-43  But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:  That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?  Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,  He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.  These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.  Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:  For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

This prophecy of Isaiah is therefore quoted in the 4 Gospels, but also by Paul in the book of Acts.

This shows us that this prophecy entered into its fulfilment when Jesus came to preach the good news of the gospel. 

We might also ask why in the Gospel of Mark, for example, it gives the impression that God would not want the Jewish people to change their way of thinking ("Les they should turn"), and that the people could not be saved ("And their sins be forgiven them")?

In no case does God wish that anyone could not repent and go through the new birth. But when Jesus spoke these words there was no question of a new birth because it was not yet available, since Jesus had not yet been sacrificed on the cross. 

It was simply a question of the Jewish people returning to God in a good mentality. At that time the Jewish people were already divided in their beliefs. Several religious parties with different doctrines had already emerged among the people.

It was therefore the people who deliberately chose not to be aware that their Messiah was already there, in the flesh before them. The people were blinded by their own lusts and pride. In this context God will use this circumstance in order to carry out the sacrifice for which Jesus came to earth. It is easy to imagine that if the people, that is to say the Jewish officials, the leaders of the people, had recognized their Messiah in the person of Jesus, they would never have accepted that he should be put to death instead of a revolutionary.

That is why God used the pride and the bewilderment of the Jewish people, which led them to hate Jesus, so that He could be sacrificed on the cross.

Does this mean that God would have pushed the Jews not to recognize their messiah?

Not at all!

For there would have been many other ways of condemning Jesus, directly by the Roman occupiers for example, without the Jews getting involved. But the Jewish people chose by their official voice to reject the person of Jesus.

This is why this prophecy of Isaiah taken up by Jesus and the apostle Paul says that the people, in their blindness and incomprehension of the situation, stipulates that the Jews will not "officially" accept the Gospel given by Jesus. So God will use this situation to carry out the plan of salvation on earth.

Bye for now...