Christ, in these verses, gives a "reason" why he used this manner of instruction. See also Mark 4:10-12; Luke 8:9-10.
The mysteries of the kingdom - The word "mystery," in the Bible, properly means a thing that is "concealed," or that "has been concealed." It does not mean that the thing was "incomprehensible," or even difficult to be understood.
The thing might be "plain" enough if revealed, but it means simply that it "had" not been before made known. Thus the "mysteries of the kingdom" do not mean any doctrines incomprehensible in themselves considered, but simply doctrines about the preaching of the gospel and the establishment of the new kingdom of the Messiah, which "had not" been understood, and which were as yet concealed from the great body of the Jews. See Romans 16:25; Romans 11:25; Ephesians 3:3-4, Ephesians 3:9. Of this nature was the truth that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles; that the Jewish polity was to cease; that the Messiah was to die, etc. To the disciples it was given to know these truths. This was important for them, as they were to carry the gospel around the globe. To the others it was not "then" given. They were too gross, too earthly; they had too, grovelling conceptions of the Messiah' s kingdom to understand these truths, even if communicated to them. They were not to preach the gospel, and hence our Saviour was at particular pains to instruct his apostles in the system which they were to preach. The Pharisees, and Jews generally, were not prepared to receive the system, and would not have believed it, and therefore he purposely employed a kind of teaching which was intended for his apostles only.
Whosoever hath ... - This is a proverbial method of speaking.
It means that a man who improves what light, grace, and opportunities he has, shall have them increased. From him that improves them not, it is proper that they should be taken away. The Jews had many opportunities of learning the truth, and some light still lingered among them; but they were gross and sensual, and misimproved them, and it was a just judgment that they should be deprived of them. Superior knowledge was given to the disciples of Christ: they improved it, however slowly, and the promise was that it should be greatly increased.
Because they seeing, see not - Mark Mark 4:12 and Luke Luke 8:10 say, "That seeing, they may not see etc.;" but there is no difference.
Matthew simply states the "fact," that though they saw the "natural" meaning of the story - though they literally understood the parable - yet they did not understand its "spiritual" signification. Mark and Luke do not state the "fact," but affirm that he spoke with this "intention" - implying that such "was" the result. Nor was there any dishonesty in this, or any unfair disguise. He had truths to state which he wished his "disciples particularly" to understand. They were of great importance to their ministry. Had he clearly and fully stated them to the Jews, they would have taken his life long before they did. He therefore chose to state the doctrines so that if their hearts had been right, and if they had not been malignant and blind, "they might have understood them." His doctrines he stated in the best possible way, and it was not his fault if they did not understand him. By little and little, in this way, he prepared many even of the Jews to receive the truth; by the only possible way of ever gaining access to their minds. It was, moreover, entirely proper and right to impart instruction to his disciples which he did not "intend" for others.
And in them is fulfilled ... - This place is quoted substantially from Isaiah 6:9-10. It was literally fulfilled in the time of Isaiah. In the time of Christ the people had the same character. Like them, they closed their eyes upon the truth, and rejected the divine teaching. The words of Isaiah were therefore "as well fitted" to express the character of the people in the time of Christ as in that of the prophet. In this sense they were "fulfilled," or "filled up;" that is, "a case occurred that corresponded to their meaning." See the notes at Matthew 1:22. It is not by any means intended that Isaiah, when he spoke these words, had any reference to the time of Christ. The meaning in both places is, that the people were so gross, sensual, and prejudiced, that they "would" not see the truth, or understand anything that was contrary to their grovelling opinions and sensual desires; a case by no means uncommon in the world. See the passage more fully explained in my notes at Isa. 6.
Waxed gross - Literally, "has become fat." This language is commonly applied to "the body," but is also used to denote one who is stupid and foolish in mind. Here it means that the people were so sensual and corrupt that they did not see or understand the pure spiritual principles of the gospel.
Lest they should see ... - Lest they should see their lost condition as sinners, and turn and live. The reason given here why they did not hear and understand the gospel is, that their "heart" was "wrong." They "would" not attend to the things that belonged to their peace.
I should heal them - Should pardon, sanctify, and save them. Sin is often represented as a disease, and the pardon and recovery of the soul from sin as "healing."
Blessed are your eyes ... - That is, you are happy that you are permitted to see truth which they will not see.
You are permitted to understand the spiritual meaning of the parables, and in some degree the plan of salvation.
Many prophets and righteous men ... - They wished to see the times of the Messiah.
They looked to it as a time when the hopes of the world would be fulfilled, and when the righteous would be happy, John 8:56. "Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad." Compare also I Peter 1:10-12; Hebrews 11:13. So Isaiah and the prophets looked forward to the coming of the Messiah as the consummation of their wishes and the end of the prophecies, Revelation 19:10. The object always dearest to the hearts of all righteous people is to witness the coming and advancement of the kingdom of Christ. Compare Revelation 22:20.
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Matthew 13:11:
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