The Expository Files


 “Lest They Return, and I Should Heal Them”

Mark 4:10-12

We should be concerned about everyone's spiritual welfare. We are probably concerned about our own as well as those close to us. A lack of concern in this area can be eternally devastating! Because we love our families and friends we want all our loved ones to serve the Lord. We would not want any of our brothers and sisters in Christ to have “received the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1) and “come short of entering His rest.” (Hebrews 4:1).

And we know that God "desires all men to be saved." (2 Timothy 2:4) and "so loved the world…” (John 3:16). God's great desire in this ought to strongly influence our thinking, praying, evangelism, and our dedication to one another and the zeal with which we approach others! So then, are we puzzled by the discourse between Jesus and His apostles after Jesus had taught the multitudes in parables which simply were not understood by all. The gospel says, “And as soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. And He was saying to them, "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God; but those who are outside get everything in parables, in order that while seeing, they may see and not perceive; and while hearing, they may hear and not understand lest they return and be forgiven. " (Mark 4:10-12).

Are There People God Does Not Want To Be Saved?
Why do His followers get to know these things, but not those outside? Was Jesus purposefully hiding important and necessary truths from some? And if so, then why this gracious invitation: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30).

Sometimes, when words are read instead of heard, we have to be careful. Inflections in the voice will make the same words mean different things. For example, depending on the inflection, the statement "Oh, I really need this." could suggest that the statement is sarcastic and actually means the opposite of what the words suggest. That seems to be what Jesus is doing in Mark 4:10-12. If we understand this, it becomes easy to see how it fits with what the rest of the Bible says about the Lord's desire for all to be saved.

Yes, it seems that our Lord was using a little sarcasm, not to be mean, but to make a point. The quote itself is actually a 700 year old writing from the prophet Isaiah. It had been through Isaiah and other prophets that God repeatedly and patiently called the people to repentance. It had been through a whole series of prophets that the nation had been warned of destruction if they continued in their rebellion (Isaiah 6:8-11). The Lord is saying, "I'll keep sending prophets to call you back to Me and you just keep on listening and looking, but don't perceive or understand. Instead, just keep hardening your hearts and closing your eyes and ears so I won't heal you." JUST KEEP GOING THE WAY YOU ARE BECAUSE YOU WOULDN'T WANT TO REPENT AND BE SAVED.” That's how it was meant in Isaiah's time, and that is how Jesus uses it in His teaching of His disciples.

The reason Jesus taught in parables was to reveal truth to openhearted people, but it would be obscured from closed-minded and prejudiced people. To those that have this openhearted desire to know more about God, more will be given. To those that do not have, even what little they do have will be taken away (Matthew 13:10-12). Those "outside" would be those with prejudiced heart and mind. They had made themselves "outsiders"! The word of God is like a lamp, and we can either be a stand from where the light can show forth and shed light, or we can be a basket and cover it up. So, if we simply read it as if Jesus is using the phrase from Isaiah as Isaiah had used it, we will understand it much easier.

God Would Like For Everybody To Be Saved
God wants us to pray for everybody because He desires all be saved (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Some today, like the Pharisees then, are very prejudiced against others. Many had apparently forgotten God's original promise to bless all earth's families through Abraham's descendant (Genesis 12:1-3). Today, there are similar attitudes that confront faith.. Racism, nationalism and various factionalisms based on differences in economic or social levels, and many other things, together with all the pride and prejudice these narrow attitudes can generate, can deter evangelistic efforts. We need to be on guard against these attitudes lest they ruin our walk with Christ by faith.

What do you suppose God will think of one who has regarded another person for whom Christ died as nothing? God wants us to imitate Christ, not the Pharisees! (Galatians 3:26-29). As we deal with others, we need to remember that God is patient, and so should we be (2 Peter 3:9,10; 14,15) If we can save our worst enemy, then we should, and be thankful for the opportunity, and rejoice if it happens (Matthew 5:44,45;48).

One Way
At the same time, we must understand that there is only one way to be saved! Many become angry at this today; call for more "open-mindedness" and "tolerance”. In the name of diversity, we are told that many roads lead to God. Just recently, an Episcopalian priest was defrocked because she said God wanted her to be a Moslem and a Christian at the same time! That was too much even for that very extremely open-minded denomination! It may be the contemporary politically correct view that every religion approaches God with its own traditions and doctrines and is acceptable to Him, but this was not the view of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Redeemer of the world (John 8:24;14:6; Ephesians 4:4-6).

Only Jesus, and nobody else, gave themselves as a ransom for all. Nobody else could do it. That is why, as politically incorrect as it may be, that Jesus is our only hope (Acts 4:12). We offer nothing more or less than Jesus, the only Savior of the world, and His gospel.


By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 19.5; May 2012