Isaiah 6:10-12, The Messianic Secret in Mark

“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.”  

//New Testament writers love to quote Isaiah, and Mark is no exception. With his eye on today’s verses in Isaiah, the author of Mark wrote these words:

[Jesus] told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’” (Mark 4:11-12) 

Why did Jesus speak in hidden parables? Why didn’t Jesus want people to understand and be forgiven? The answer lies in the rest of the verse from Isaiah, in the commandment of God that they remain in the dark until the land is ravaged. I’ve often stated my belief that the war of 70 CE, when Jerusalem was attacked and the Temple destroyed, had an immense bearing on the development and direction of Christianity. The Gospel of Mark was written either during or immediately after this war. Perhaps he felt it was time to come out of the dark.

Did Jesus really want his fellow Jews to remain calloused, confused, and unforgiven? I doubt it, but the point is they did remain so, and Mark, stumbling about for an explanation for the terrible war that ravaged his nation, finds this verse of explanation in Isaiah.

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