What Jesus says may at first glance cause some confusion.
Everyone would know he is quoting the prophet Isaiah who was sent to preach to 4 major kings in Judah. Isaiah knew this would not be a successful appointment because of the hardness and apathy of their hearts. In fact his preaching would make it worse, for he would make their hearts even harder.
“This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 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.’ But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (Matthew 13 v 13-17)
Jesus is explaining to the crowd what he has been doing. He is scattering seed, but the people need to hear and understand. Yet understanding the secrets of the kingdom hidden in a parable is a work of God in a heart that is willing to be open to receive the truth. For others, Jesus hasn’t come to condemn, so if they reject the kingdom then to lessen their guilt they are actually only rejecting a story that they didn’t understand.
As we scatter seed, let’s not be as focused on our ability and skill in doing so but in prayer that there be a move in their hearts to hear and understand.
Yet in scattering seed we must acknowledge that it will have the effect of the hardening of hearts in some people. So the sharing of the gospel may not bring results but it is always effective because it will at the very least bring judgment. And maybe that is the uncomfortable truth. You share a story of your life to witness to someone the gospel and they receive it gladly, they get it completely. What a great story and presentation! You do exactly the same thing to another person and they look at you with a blank face. Don’t worry, it’s okay, there may be nothing wrong with your presentation, it is just that on this occasion not only did they not take the opportunity to hear and understand they became more entrenched in their position yet they did so in the most gracious way possible, because all they heard was a story of your life, the meaning was hidden from them. Parables are gracious. Judgment doesn’t have to come in hard knock-out blows.