I have just embarked on a study of the eschatology of Jesus’ parables, and have been currently involved in a study of Jesus’ first parable, The Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. I have demonstrated that the reason Jesus spoke to the people in parables, and without a parable he did not speak to them (Matthew 13:34), was so he wouldn’t disturb their hardheartedness (Matthew 13:11). In other words, they had already closed their minds to the truth about the Kingdom of God. They wanted a kingdom, alright, but they wanted the kingdom their way, not in the manner Jesus presented it (cf. John 12:34). They wanted a physical kingdom with a physical king, reigning in physical Jerusalem (cf. 1Samuel 8:4-7). That is not the Kingdom of God (cf. Luke 17:20-21).
What is interesting in Jesus reply to his disciples query (Matthew 13:10-11), is that he based his response upon Isaiah’s commission to go to an unresponsive nation (Isaiah 6:8-11). So, here is Jesus near the beginning of his ministry, saying the people, especially the Jewish authorities, had already closed their minds to the Gospel that Jesus preached. The Jewish authorities had accused Jesus of doing the work of Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24), and they did this because they heard the people say among themselves that Jesus is the Messiah (Matthew 12:23). This slanderous accusation, made by the Jewish authorities, had to have put the people in fear to believe Jesus. Therefore, their minds and hearts became closed to the Gospel very early in Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus, then, began preaching in parables, so as not to disturb their decision, which brought spiritual blindness upon them. Thus, in them was fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 6:8-11, which in Isaiah’s day brought national judgment and destruction upon the ten northern tribes of Israel. Therefore, since the same condition existed among the Jewish nation in the first century AD, Jesus’ ministry and that of his disciples would bring national disaster upon Jerusalem (cf. Micah 1:3-6).
Now, notice, that in the beginning the people were responding favorably to Jesus (Matthew 12:23). This is what the Gospel was meant to do. It also shows us that God did not take it upon himself to blind the people, so that he could later fulfill his will in Jesus (cf. Romans 9:18-19; Acts 3:18). Rather, the scriptures show the power of false doctrine. False doctrine is strong delusion forced upon the people who trust their teachers. In the case of the first century AD, this was the Jewish authorities coming out of Jerusalem. It was they who labeled Jesus as a demon, compelled to do the work of Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24; cf. John 8:48). Preaching the Gospel to those under the delusion of false doctrine is spiritual warfare. Now this ‘strong delusion’ occurred very near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
Consider now what occurred through Paul’s ministry in Rome. While he was under house arrest awaiting trial by Nero, Paul called for the elders of the Jews in Rome. He then preached Jesus to them. Some believed, but it is implied that most did not (Acts 28:23-24). When they couldn’t agree among themselves and got up to leave, Paul repeated the prophecy of Isaiah to them, the very same prophecy that Jesus used to inform his disciples why he spoke to the people in parables near the beginning of his ministry:
Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Acts 28:26-27)
Spiritual blindness is self-imposed in that folks will not consider or even taste the new wine of Jesus, if they are already satisfied with the old wine of their own false doctrine, believing it is good enough (Luke 5:39; cf. John 12:34-35). The Lord told Isaiah that he was to preach to the unresponsive people, until their cities and their land lay desolate (Isaiah 6:11), and in the context of the New Testament, this meant that the Gospel must be preached to the Jews, even though most wouldn’t receive it, until the Lord came out of heaven to judge Jerusalem in 70 AD (Matthew 26:64; cf. Micah 1:3-6).