They Did Not Understand

Every time I read the gospels, I find a new appreciation for the twelve disciples. They seem to have a strong desire to please Jesus but are often misguided in their thoughts and actions. Recently I was reading, and a line hit me about the disciples like never in my life.

Jesus predicts his upcoming death on the cross, along with his resurrection. It is a significant statement about his ministry, and yet the next verse contains this description.

“But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.” (Mark 9:32)

Here they had been listening to some key words about Jesus, and they had no clue what it meant. This might seem surprising until you do a little searching, and you find that at least four other times, the disciples had no clue what Jesus was telling them. I imagine them smiling and saying, “Nice sermon,” while they glance at one another, confirming that each was as confused as the other.

Have you ever not understood but were afraid to ask? I know I have, and all of us may have felt it at some point when reading our Bibles. If so, let me offer you a couple of suggestions.

  1. Be willing to admit to someone you do not understand. This is so hard for most people. We are adults, and we should know things.
  2. Know that you are not alone in your lack of understanding. The disciples felt it, and Jesus was right there with them. You will feel it. We all do.
  3. Ask questions. One of the greatest joys of my ministry is explaining the way of Jesus to people. I don’t have all the answers, but I will do my best. I am sure this is true for most believers. We love to explain stuff to people who want to know.
  4. Give yourself time. It will take the disciples a while before they understand what Jesus said. It will take you some time too. If the answers don’t come clear after a period, be sure to ask and ask.
  5. Ask God for wisdom. James writes to the Church and says, “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God (James 1:5). Sometimes my prayers have been very specific. I do not just ask God for wisdom, but for him to connect me with a teacher, a book, a lecture, or anything helpful.

I am not sure what held the disciples back or what holds back anyone of us who doesn’t understand. Maybe our pride, possibly our fear, or perhaps we have never learned to admit we have ignorance. Set aside whatever keeps you from learning, and I am sure your knowledge will grow along with your faith.

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