“'You will be ever hearing but never understanding ...’” (Matthew 13:14-15)

“In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them’” (Matthew 13:14-15)

What is the 'prophesy of Isaiah'?

Jesus is referring to many among the crowds he is speaking to as he references the words spoken to Isaiah by God regarding the people of Judah in the Book of Isaiah. Here is the verse (bold) with the text surrounding it:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
"Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

He said, "Go and tell this people:
" 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.'

Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed."

Then I said, "For how long, O Lord?"
And he answered:
"Until the cities lie ruined
and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged,

until the LORD has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken."
(Isaiah 6:8-12)

What is a 'calloused heart'?

"Calloused" indicates someone whose heart has become hardened. In such a state, there is a lack of empathy towards others. There is a lack of mercy towards others. There is a lack of understanding, and there is typically a pride in oneself and one's own abilities.

In this state, there is little or no ability to hear God's teachings, nor participate within a loving service relationship with the Supreme Being.

Jesus paraphrases Isaiah's text with, "Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them."

So why did the Supreme Being want Isaiah to harden the hearts of the people? Because in such a state, we cannot perceive the Supreme Being. In this state, we are unable to enter into our innate relationship with the Supreme Being.

This occurs should we want to avoid God. It occurs when we want to enjoy life independently. When we don't want to serve someone else but want to be served. This is why God says above, "until the LORD has sent everyone far away." Should we want to get away from God, He helps make that happen.

In such a state, we don't want to perceive the Supreme Being. So God simply accommodates that desire by hardening our hearts so we won't hear the teachings of His messengers.

This is the substance of Jesus' statement as well. He is stating that many of those who came to his sermons did not hear Jesus' teachings. Their hearts were covered. They were calloused.

Why do people become calloused?

The reason is self-centeredness. When a person's mission is to satisfy themselves, they see everything around them as tools to utilize for self-centered enjoyment. With such a myopic (narrow focus) view, there is no ability to hear God's teachings from the outside or from within.

Consider, for example, children sitting in class. The teacher is talking, but some of the children aren't listening because they are focused on what they will be doing after class is over. They are thinking about their baseball game or their new toy. While they are thinking about all this, will they hear what the teacher is saying? Certainly not. They might be sitting right there and seemingly listening, but their mind and consciousness are somewhere else.

This is similar to what Jesus is referring to. Many of those who came to hear Jesus speak were more interested in having some of their bodies' ailments healed. Or they were interested in the spectacle so they could talk about it later. They weren't interested in what Jesus was trying to teach them.

What does Jesus mean by 'be healed'?

As to the phrase “be healed,” could Jesus (and God to Isaiah) be talking about being physically healed? Rather, Jesus and God are talking about learning: Seeing, hearing and understanding is associated with learning something. Jesus wants to teach these people something, but they are not hearing or understanding him.

This is not referring to the physical body at all. In fact, the physical body is temporary, and any healing of the physical body would be futile in the long run. Every physical body gets old and diseased, and every physical body dies within a few decades. No body makes it out alive.

Jesus and the Supreme Being are referring to the spiritual person - the spirit-person who is wearing the temporary physical body. This spirit-person is eternal, whereas the physical body is temporary.

So how is the spirit-person healed then? Only when we redevelop our lost loving service relationship with the Supreme Being. This is the only thing that will heal each of us of our sickness of self-centeredness and ultimate loneliness - regardless of how many family members and fans we might have.

Yes, it is Jesus' teachings that have the effect of healing the spirit-person within. And what is the foundation of Jesus' teachings?
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)