But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
~ Mark 4:34
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
~ Matthew 16:17
Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
~ Romans 16:25
What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.
~ Isaiah 5:4-7
They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.
~ Isaiah 44:18
Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD’S servant? Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not.
~ Isaiah 42:18-20
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.
~ Isaiah 6:9-10
Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.
~ Ezekiel 12:2
Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law.
~ Psalm 119:70
But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.
~ Zechariah 7:11
For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.
~ Isaiah 29:10-12
And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
~ 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
~ Hebrews 6:4-6
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
~ Romans 1:28
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
~ Revelation 22:11
So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
~ Romans 9:16
A Commentary on Matthew 13:10-15, by John Calvin.
And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 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.
~ Matthew 13:10-15
10. The disciples approaching said to him. From the words of Matthew it is evident, that the disciples did not merely look to themselves, but wished also to consult the benefit of others. Being unable to comprehend the parable, they concluded that it would be as little understood by the people; and, therefore, they complain that Christ employed language from which his hearers could derive no profit. Now though parables are generally found to illustrate the subject of which they treat, yet the uninterrupted course of a metaphor may lead to obscurity. (So then Christ, in delivering this parable, intended to wrap up, in an allegory, what he might have said more plainly and fully, without a figure. But now that the exposition is added, the figurative discourse has greater energy and force than if it had been simple: by which is meant, that it is not only fitted to produce a more powerful impression on the mind, but is also more clear. So highly important is the manner in which any thing is said.
11. To you it is given to know the mysteries (of the kingdom of heaven From this reply of Christ we learn, that the doctrine of salvation is proclaimed by God to men for various purposes; for Christ declares that he intentionally spoke obscurely, in order that his discourse might be a riddle to many, and might only strike their ears with a confused and doubtful sound. It will perhaps be objected, that this is inconsistent with that prophecy,
I have not spoken in secret, nor in a dark corner: I said not in vain to the seed of Jacob, Seek me,
or with the commendations which David pronounces on the Law, that it is a lamp to the feet, and that it giveth wisdom to little children (Psalm 119:105,130.)
But the answer is easy: the word of God, in its own nature, is always bright, but its light is choked by the darkness of men. Though the Law was concealed, as it were, by a kind of veil, yet the truth, of God shone brightly in it, if the eyes of many had not been blinded. With respect to the Gospel, Paul affirms with truth, that it is hidden to none but to the reprobate, and to those who are devoted to destruction, whose minds Satan hath blinded, (2 Corinthians 4:3,4.) Besides, it ought to be understood, that the power of enlightening which David mentions, and the familiar manner of teaching which Isaiah predicts, refer exclusively to the elect people.
Still it remains a fixed principle, that the word of God is not obscure, except so far as the world darkens it by its own blindness. And yet the Lord conceals its mysteries, so that the perception of them may not reach the reprobate. There are two ways in which he deprives them of the light of his doctrine. Sometimes he states, in a dark manner, what might be more clearly expressed; and sometimes he explains his mind fully, without ambiguity and without metaphor, but strikes their senses with dulness and their minds with stupidity, so that they are blind amidst bright sunshine.
Such is the import of those dreadful threatenings, in which Isaiah forewarns, that he will be to the people a barbarian, speaking in a foreign and unknown language; that the prophetical visions will be to the learned a shut and sealed book, in which they cannot read; and that when the book shall be opened, all will be unlearned, and will remain in amazement, through inability to read, (Isaiah 28:11; Isaiah 29:11.) Now since Christ has purposely dispensed his doctrine in such a manner, that it might be profitable only to a small number, being firmly seated in their minds, and might hold others in suspense and perplexity, it follows that, by divine appointment, the doctrine of salvation is not proclaimed to all for the same end, but is so regulated by his wonderful purpose, that it is not less a savor of death to death to the reprobate than a life-giving savor to the elect, (2 Corinthians 2:15,16.) And that no one may dare to murmur, Paul declares, in that passage that whatever may be the effect of the Gospel, its savor, though deadly, is always a sweet savor to God.
To ascertain fully the meaning of the present passage, we must examine more closely the design of Christ, the reason why, and the purpose for which, these words were spoken. First, the comparison is undoubtedly intended by Christ to exhibit the magnitude of the grace bestowed on his disciples, in having specially received what was not given indiscriminately to all. If it is asked, why this privilege was peculiar to the apostles, the reason certainly will not be found in themselves, and Christ, by declaring that it was given to them, excludes all merit. Christ declares that there are certain and elect men, on whom God specially bestows this honor of revealing to them his secrets, and that others are deprived of this grace. No other reason will be found for this distinction, except that God calls to himself those whom he has gratuitously elected.
12. For whosoever hath, it shall be given to him. Christ pursues the subject which I have just mentioned; for he reminds his disciples how kindly God acts towards them, that they may more highly prize his grace, and may acknowledge themselves to be under deeper obligations to his kindness. The same words he afterwards repeats, but in a different sense, (Matthew 25:29;) for on that occasion the discourse relates to the lawful use of gifts. But here he simply teaches, that more is given to the apostles than to the generality of men, because the heavenly Father is pleased to display in perfection his kindness towards them.
He does not forsake the work of his own hand,
Those whom he has once begun to form are continually polished more and more, till they are at length brought to the highest perfection. The multiplied favors which are continually flowing from him to us, and the joyful progress which we make, spring from God’s contemplation of his own liberality, which prompts him to an uninterrupted course of bounty. And as his riches are inexhaustible, so he is never wearied with enriching his children. Whenever he advances us to a higher degree, let us remember that every increase of the favors which we daily receive from him flows from this source, that it is his purpose to complete the work, of our salvation already commenced. On the other hand, Christ declares that the reprobate are continually proceeding from bad to worse, till, at length exhausted, they waste away in their own poverty.
And he that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken from him. This may appear to be a harsh expression; but instead of saying, that what the ungodly have not is taken from them, Luke softens the harshness and removes the ambiguity by a slight change of the words: and whosoever hath not, even that which he thinketh that he hath shall be taken from him. And indeed it frequently happens, that the reprobate are endued with eminent gifts, and appear to resemble the children of God: but there is nothing of real value about them; for their mind is destitute of piety, and has only the glitter of an empty show. Matthew is therefore justified in saying that they have nothing; for what they have is of no value in the sight of God, and has no permanency within. Equally appropriate is the statement of Luke, that the gifts, with which they have been endued, are corrupted by them, so that they shine only in the eyes of men, but have nothing more than splendor and empty display. Hence, also let us learn to aim at progress throughout our whole life; for God grants to us the taste of his heavenly doctrine on the express condition, that we feed on it abundantly from day to day, till we come to be fully satiated with it.
The manner in which Mark introduces this sentence has some appearance of confusion. Consider, says our Lord, what you hear; and then, if they make due progress, he holds out the expectation of more plentiful grace: it shall be added to you that hear Lastly, follows the clause which agrees with the words of Matthew, but is inserted in the middle of a sentence which I expounded under the seventh chapter of Matthew; for it is not probable that they are here placed in their proper order. The Evangelists, as we have remarked on former occasions, were not very exact in arranging Christ’s discourses, but frequently throw together a variety of sayings uttered by him. Luke mixes this sentence with other discourses of Christ spoken at different times, and likewise points out a different purpose for which Christ used these words. It was that they might be attentive to his doctrine, and not permit the seed of life to pass away unimproved, which ought to be cordially received, and take root in their minds. “Beware,” he says, “lest what has been given be taken away from you, if it yield no fruit.”
13. For this reason I speak by parables. He says that he speaks to the multitude in an obscure manner, because they are not partakers of the true light. And yet, while he declares that a veil is spread over the blind, that they may remain in their darkness, he does not ascribe the blame of this to themselves, but takes occasion to commend more highly the grace bestowed on the Apostles, because it is not equally communicated to all. He assigns no cause for it, except the secret purpose of God; for which, as we shall afterwards see more fully, there is a good reason, though it has been concealed from us. It is not the only design of a parable to state, in an obscure manner, what God is not pleased to reveal clearly; but we have said that the parable now under our consideration was delivered by Christ, in order that the form of an allegory might present a doubtful riddle.
14. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah. He confirms his statement by a prediction of Isaiah, that it is far from being a new thing, if many persons derive no advantage from the word of God, which was formerly appointed to the ancient people, for the purpose of inducing greater blindness. This passage of the Prophet is quoted, in a variety of ways, in the New Testament. Paul quotes it (Acts 28:26) to charge the Jews with obstinate malice, and says that they were blinded by the light of the Gospel, because they were bitter and rebellious against God. There he points out the immediate cause which appeared in the men themselves. But in the Epistle to the Romans (11:7) he draws the distinction from a deeper and more hidden source; for he tells us, that the remnant was saved according to the election of grace, and that the rest were blinded, according as it is written. The contrast must there be observed; for if it is the election of God, and an undeserved election, which alone saves any remnant of the people, it follows that all others perish by a hidden, though just, judgment of God. Who are the rest, whom Paul contrasts with the elect remnant, but those on whom God has not bestowed a special salvation?
Similar reasoning may be applied to the passage in John, (12:38;) for he says that many believed not, because no man believes, except he to whom God reveals his arm, and immediately adds, that they could not believe, because it is again written, Blind the heart of this people. Such, too is the object which Christ has in view, when he ascribes it to the secret purpose of God, that the truth of the Gospel is not revealed indiscriminately to all, but is exhibited at a distance under obscure forms, so as to have no other effect than to overspread the minds of the people with grosser darkness. In all cases, I admit, those whom God blinds will be found to deserve this condemnation; but as the immediate cause is not always obvious in the persons of men, let it be held as a fixed principle, that God enlightens to salvation, and that by a peculiar gift, those whom He has freely chosen; and that all the reprobate are deprived of the light of life, whether God withholds his word from them, or keeps their eyes and ears closed, that they do not hear or see.
Hearing you shall hear. We now perceive the manner in which Christ applies the prediction of the prophet to the present occasion. He does not quote the prophet’s words, nor was it necessary; for Christ reckoned it enough to show, that it was no new or uncommon occurrence, if many were hardened by the word of God. The words of the prophet were,
Go, blind their minds, and harden their hearts, (Isaiah 6:10.)
Matthew ascribes this to the hearers, that they may endure the blame of their own blindness and hardness; for the one cannot be separated from the other. All who have been given over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28) do voluntarily, and from inward malice, blind and harden themselves. Nor can it be otherwise, wherever the Spirit of God does not reign, by whom the elect alone are governed. Let us, therefore, attend to this connection, that all whom God does not enlighten with the Spirit of adoption are men of unsound mind; and that, while they are more and more blinded by the word of God, the blame rests wholly on themselves, because this blindness is voluntary. Again, the ministers of the word ought to seek consolation from this passage, if the success of their labors does not always correspond to their wish. Many are so far from profiting by their instruction, that they are rendered worse by it. What has befallen them was experienced by a Prophet, to whom they are not superior. It were, indeed, to be wished, that they should bring all under subjection to God; and they ought to labor and strive for that end. But let them not wonder if that judgment, which God anciently displayed through the ministration of the Prophet, is likewise fulfilled at the present day. At the same time, we ought to be extremely careful, that the fruit of the Gospel be not lost through our negligence.
Mark 4:12. That seeing, they may see, and not perceive. Here it may suffice to state briefly what has already been fully explained, that the doctrine is not, strictly speaking, or by itself, or in its own nature, but by accident, the cause of blindness. When persons of a weak sight come out into sunshine, their eyes become dimmer than before, and that defect is in no way attributed to the sun, but to their eyes. In like manner, when the word of God blinds and hardens the reprobate, as this takes place through their own depravity, it belongs truly and naturally to themselves, but is accidental, as respects the word.
Lest at any time they should be converted. This clause points out the advantage that is gained by seeing and understanding It is, that men, having been converted to God, are restored to his favor, and, being reconciled to him, enjoy prosperity and happiness. The true end for which
God desires that his word should be preached is, to reconcile men to himself by renewing their minds and hearts. With respect to the reprobate, on the other hand, Isaiah here declares that the stony hardness remains in them, so that they do not obtain mercy, and that the word fails to produce its effect upon them, so as to soften their minds to repentance.
Matthew 13:15. Lest I should heal them In the word healing, Matthew, as well as the Prophet, includes deliverance from every evil; for a people afflicted by the hand of God is metaphorically compared by them to a sick man. They say that healing is bestowed, when the Lord releases from punishment. But as this healing depends on the pardon of sins, Mark describes appropriately and justly its cause and source, lest they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them For whence comes the mitigation of chastisements, but because God has been reconciled to us, and makes us the objects of his blessing? Sometimes, no doubt, after removing our guilt, he continues to punish us, either with the view of humbling us the more, or of making us more cautious for the future. And yet, not only does he show evidences of his favor by restoring us to life and health; but as punishments usually terminate when the guilt is removed, healing and forgiveness are properly introduced together. It must not, however, be concluded, that repentance is the cause of pardon, as if God received into his favor converted men, because they deserved it; for conversion itself is a mark of God’s free favor. Nothing more is expressed than such an order and connection, that God does not forgive the sins of any but those who are dissatisfied with themselves.