The nature of spiritual blindness

What I find so interesting about Jesus’ teaching style is that He taught only in parables to the crowds. Even His most important messages were shrouded in mystery to the disinterested. He only explained them to those whose hearts were open. When it comes things that matter most, the condition of our heart is more important than our intelligence.

A closed heart receives nothing from God; an open heart can potentially receive the deepest, most life-giving revelations of heaven. This is actually a maxim for a life well-lived in every area of our lives.

I want to peer into this aspect of Jesus’ teaching, and human nature in general, by looking at Matthew chapter 13. Here’s how Jesus explained His teaching style to His disciples:

11 He explained, “You’ve been given the intimate experience of insight into the hidden mysteries of the realm of heaven’s kingdom, but they have not. 12 For everyone who listens with an open heart will receive progressively more revelation until he has more than enough. But those who don’t listen with an open, teachable heart, even the understanding that they think they have will be taken from them. 13 That’s why I teach the people using parables, because they think they’re looking for truth, yet because their hearts are unteachable, they never discover it. Although they will listen to me, they never fully perceive the message I speak.” 14 The prophecy of Isaiah describes them perfectly:

Although they listen carefully to everything I speak,
    they don’t understand a thing I say.
    They look and pretend to see,
    but the eyes of their hearts are closed.
15 Their minds are dull and slow to perceive,
    their ears are plugged and are hard of hearing,
    and they have deliberately shut their eyes to the truth.
    Otherwise they would open their eyes to see,
    and open their ears to hear,
    and open their minds to understand.
    Then they would turn to me
    and I would instantly heal them. (Matt. 13:11-15 TPT*)

The heart is the great equalizer with God. It wasn’t that Jesus’ disciples were smarter or more perceptive and anyone else. The difference was that their hearts were open to Jesus.

Jesus equates those with a closed heart with minds that are “dull and slow to perceive.” The disciples got a good case in point with the Pharisees earlier:

38 Then a few Jewish scholars and Pharisees spoke up and said, “Teacher, why don’t you perform a miraculous sign for us.” 39 Jesus replied, “Only evil people who are unfaithful to God would demand a sign. (Matt.12:38-39 TPT*)

What’s funny about this is that these same Pharisees just witnessed Jesus freeing a demonized man who was deaf and mute (vs.22). In fact, they accused Him of casting out the demon by the power of Satan! The truth is, they saw all kinds of miraculous signs.  Their question was totally ingenuous and deceitful (sounds like the devil’s questions to Jesus in the wilderness).

37 Even with the overwhelming evidence of all the many signs and wonders that Jesus had performed in front of them, his critics still refused to believe. (John 12:37 TPT)

What this tells us about human nature is that no amount of evidence is going to convince a closed heart. If they see someone get healed of a broken finger, the skeptic will demand that an arm sprout out!

Getting back to Jesus’ teaching style, it’s evident to me that He didn’t bother to explain anything He said to people whose hearts were not open. Even critically important things.

Think about it. Jesus gives a parables in chapter 13 about the final judgment—the “parable of the weeds” (or “tares.” See Matt.13:37-43). What’s so interesting here is that Jesus doesn’t even bother explaining His parable about the final judgment to the crowd! You would think something so important to everyone as judgment day would be thoroughly explained to every single person there. At least that’s what we modern preachers seem to think needs to happen. But Jesus doesn’t bother explaining it at all to those who aren’t interested (in this case, at their own peril!)

Basically, Jesus is saying, “If you don’t care enough to understand what’s at stake for you, I’m not going to explain it to you.”

What does this tell us about Jesus’ teaching style and, for that matter, human nature?

What it says to me is that Jesus only revealed mysteries to people who had ears to hear, because He knew that it would be a waste of time to try to teach someone whose heart is closed. I’ve learned this from personal experience!

It means that we cannot blame God for what happens to us because of our unwillingness to hear.

It also shows why it’s a total waste of time to have an honest discussion with trolls.

But it also tells me that revelation is relational. It’s an intimate experience that opens the door to greater insight, as Jesus told His disciples earlier:

“You’ve been given the intimate experience of insight into the hidden mysteries of the realm of heaven’s kingdom, but they have not.  (Matt.13:11 TPT*)

One more point about chapter 13 and the heart. It’s here where Jesus gives one of most familiar parables of all—the parable of the sower.

19 “The seed that fell on the [type of soil] represents the heart of one who hears the message of the kingdom.[result]….” (Matt.13:19a TPT, bracket inserts mine*)

Basically, the condition of our heart (“soil”) not only determines our fruitfulness, but it also determines what we will understand, or not understand, even to our own peril in the case of final judgment. (Safety tip…keep your heart open!)

Hopefully, this will show us something about the nature of spiritual blindness and knowing when we’re having an honest conversation with someone and when we’re just wasting our time.

* All emphasis added.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 42 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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17 Responses to The nature of spiritual blindness

  1. Ah, beautiful, Mel! Well said. The Bible promises us wisdom, but we have to ask for it, which implies we are going to be willing to receive it. Jesus even asks people, do you want to be healed? We’ve probably all known those who seem to complain about the same problem day after day, but are completely unwilling to do anything different to change it.

    Understanding spiritual blindness has made me a lot more patient with other people and less resentful. It’s immoral to whack a blind person over the head because they refuse to see something that you really want them to see. Some people are decent people, they just have a big blind spot in certain areas.

    There is a clear line in there somewhere too, a time to just kick the dust off your sandals and move on. Sometimes in families all the energy and resources go towards trying to save the most dysfunctional member. Part of the reason why they remain so dysfunctional is because all the time and resources are being poured out on them! I could probably say the same thing about some churches. We can get so busy trying to save the lost and help the needy, we pour nothing into the healthy.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Very true, IB. I think, as we learn how patient and kind God is with us as things “dawn” on us finally, we have the capability to have more patience and grace for others.

      On where we draw the line, I was counciling a man who was depressed for over a year about his girlfriend breaking up with him. He was a believer. It didn’t help that we had a pandemic, because he sat home for a year and thought about nothing else. And, as I talked to him about what he could do, taking small steps at a time, I realized he wasn’t even listening to me. He apparently didn’t want to be over his depression. He just wanted someone to hear him talk about it. After this went on for a while, I just asked him, “Do you really want to be over your depression?” He said, “But it’s hard!” Of course, it is hard but you can work out of it, taking thoughts captive and learning to refocus your thoughts. He didn’t really want to heart that. This man was not a victim anymore, he was a volunteer. That was the last time we got together because he went looking for someone else who would allow him to stay depressed about his ex-girlfriend. It definitely tells us something about human nature!

      • Amen, Mel! Somebody smart once said “we need to learn to ask our demons, what keeps you here?”

        They are a bit like raccoons, we’re often entertaining them, we’re putting food out for them, we’re complaining about them getting in the garbage….

  2. “What this tells us about human nature is that no amount of evidence is going to convince a closed heart.”
    “But it also tells me that revelation is relational.”
    Awesome, Brother Mel! The disciples HAD a relationship with Jesus and thus The Father. We have that same choice in front of us, just like everyone else in the world. But it is a person’s choice. It’s amazing that even today, miracles are going around us all the time and yet so many CHOOSE not to see them. Maybe a relationship change is in order.
    Again, GREAT message. God Bless!!

  3. Our Sunday school class was just studying the parable of the sower, and we noted that the people who had the parable explained to them had come to Jesus asking for an explanation, while everyone else just went home. As another blogger recently said, mystery makes it necessary to come closer – it’s an invitation for intimacy.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yes, that’s good. Mystery really is the invitation to intimacy. Thanks for sharing that.

      • I wish I could remember which blogger said that. I love that it’s another perspective of a complaint that atheists often have – like it’s “proof” that the Bible isn’t true, because THEY don’t understand it. (Pretty arrogant, when you think about it.)

        • Mel Wild says:

          What atheists don’t get is that Scripture is living (Heb.4:12). It’s not a classroom textbook. You receive truth with an open heart though intimate relationship with its author. If you’re not interested in drawing near to find it, you won’t. In fact, as Jesus said in Matt.13:11, even what understanding you do have will be taken away from you. It’s a sad trajectory toward blindness for the disinterested, becoming futile in their thoughts (Rom.1:21).

  4. SLIMJIM says:

    You are right a harden heart have made up their mind no matter the evidence. I think a lot of that is happening right now in the West…

  5. Pingback: The nature of spiritual blindness | In My Father’s House – Smart

  6. pkadams says:

    I love this. I was thinking that maybe an open heart requires humility and willingness to admit we are“dumb” and need wisdom. I can’t learn when I think I already have all the answers.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen. We admit that we are ignorant, not having revelation of the truth about something. Even if it was something we learned decades ago. There’s always a new facet about it to discover. Always listening and willing to change. Like a little child, we take in before we offer our opinion or judging something based on our limited understanding. We seek to understand and never stop growing in the Lord and in our relationships with others.

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