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."
"Calloused" indicates someone whose heart has become hardened. In such a state, there is no ability to hear the teachings of God's representative, 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, they cannot perceive the Supreme Being. They are not able to enter into their innate relationship with the Supreme Being.
This is because they want to avoid God. They want to enjoy life independently. They don't want to serve someone else. They want to serve themselves. This is why God says above, "until the LORD has sent everyone far away." Some want to get away from God. So He helps make that happen for them.
In such a state, they don't want to perceive the Supreme Being. So God simply accommodates that desire by hardening a person's heart so they won't hear the teachings of God's representative. Even if they are right there hearing them or reading them later.
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.
The reason is self-centeredness. When a person's mission is to satisfy themselves, they see everything around themselves as tools to utilize for self-centered enjoyment. With such a myopic (narrow focus) view, there is no ability to hear the teachings of God's representative.
Consider for example, children sitting in class. The teacher is talking, but some of the children aren't listening, because they are focused upon 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 is 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 body's 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.
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)
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)