Why would Jesus not want unbelievers to understand and be converted?


From the Gospel reading for today:

11 He answered them, “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables, 12so that

‘they may look and see but not perceive,

and hear and listen but not understand,

in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.’”*

Why would Jesus want those outside his inner circle of disciples to not be converted, and thus not be forgiven? Why would he not want everyone to perceive, understand, be converted, and be forgiven?


From Haydock’s Commentary:

Ver. 11. Such as are out of the Church, though they both hear and read, they cannot understand. Ven. Bede, in C. iv, Mark.
Ver. 12. That seeing they may see, &c. In punishment of their wilfully shutting their eyes, (Matt. xiii. 15.) God justly withdrew those lights and graces which otherwise he would have given them, for their effectual conversion. Ch. — These speeches here and elsewhere, we are not to understand as if he spoke in parables to this end that the hearers might not understand, lest they should be converted; but we must learn the true sense from the corresponding texts in Matt. xiii, and Acts xxviii, where our Saviour and S. Paul render it thus: with their ears they have been dull of hearing, and their eyes they have shut. lest, perhaps, they may see, and understand, and be converted, and I heal them. Whereby it is evident, that the speaking in parables was not the cause, (for many besides the apostles heard and understood) but themselves, who would not hear and understand, and be converted: and thus they were the real cause of their own wilful and obstinate infidelity. And therefore also he spoke in parables, because they were not worthy to understand, as the others were to whom he expounded them.

Hope this helps!


In short, Jesus is not saying He does not want to convert them. He is saying that He will not because of their own stubbornness.


So why not just speak plainly to them? Why not explain the parables to everyone as he explained it to the inner circle?

The only thing I can think of is perhaps they were so closed off that plain speaking would throw them into a murderous rage? Perhaps the message was so revolutionary that if he had spoken in a way they could understand they would have killed him.


Could he not have broken through their stubbornness and changed their hearts? Why did he choose not to do it?

Throughout the Gospels, he insists on faith as a precondition to healing. He waits for people ask for healing before he heals them. Then he says something like “Your faith has saved you.” Maybe it is the same with understanding.


It is notable that Christ did not try, but you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. We cannot say for certain, but perhaps they simply did not want to believe. It was not simply because they had no faith, they did not want faith; it was not convenient to them, so they obstinately shut themselves.

Just my thoughts. But who can say what theirs were.


The parables are about fruitfulness, which can conflict with power-wielding, looking good and the like. If they were hardened to those issues, Jesus had to wait till they unhardened themselves, if they ever would.

The Church brings the parables into our catechesis at certain times in the hope that in the course of our lives we have become sufficiently unhardened to respond positively to the call to servanthood (which is a far cry from being doormats - it is about not stunting the growth of the other).


The parables are pretty accessible. That’s their charm.
Some people just refuse to listen. You’ve met people like that, right?
Christ never forces Himself on anyone.
You can’t MAKE someone love you.


DonCampbell #5
Could he not have broken through their stubbornness and changed their hearts? Why did he choose not to do it?

We have all been created with free-will. So it is an impossibility that God would “break” or “force” that free-will.

Thus God encourages us to do good and avoid evil through His Holy Catholic Church with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacraments, Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the protection from erroneous teaching by the dogma and doctrine of His Magisterium.


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