Throughout the New Testament, we see numerous instances where the disciples misunderstood Jesus’ teachings. Despite spending three years with Him, they still struggled to grasp the depth and breadth of His message. So, how did this happen?
Firstly, it’s important to understand the context in which Jesus spoke. He often used parables and metaphors to explain complex spiritual truths.
For example, in Matthew 13:33, He says “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” This metaphorical language was difficult for the disciples to comprehend.
Secondly, their worldview contributed to their misunderstanding. The disciples were Jewish men who had grown up with a particular understanding of God and His ways.
They believed that the Messiah would come as a political leader who would overthrow Roman rule and establish an earthly kingdom. When Jesus talked about His kingdom being “not of this world” (John 18:36), it clashed with their expectations.
The Example of Peter
Peter is one disciple who often demonstrated his lack of understanding. In Matthew 16:21-23, Jesus tells His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law before being killed and raised to life on the third day. Peter responds by rebuking Him saying “Never Lord!
This shall never happen to you!” But Jesus responds sternly saying “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God but merely human concerns.”
Why did Jesus react so strongly?
Jesus was trying to demonstrate that Peter’s worldview was clouded by his own desires and expectations. Peter could not imagine a Messiah who would suffer instead of conquering. Jesus needed to clarify that His mission was not an earthly one, but a spiritual one that would involve His death and resurrection.
The Bigger Picture
In hindsight, we can see the bigger picture of what Jesus was trying to accomplish. He came to offer salvation to all people, not just the Jews.
He came to establish a new covenant between God and humanity through His death and resurrection. But the disciples struggled to see beyond their own limited understanding.
- They argued about who was the greatest (Mark 9:33-35)
- They asked for positions of honor in Jesus’ kingdom (Mark 10:35-37)
- They fell asleep when Jesus asked them to pray (Matthew 26:40-41)
Despite their misunderstandings, Jesus did not give up on His disciples. He continued to teach them and correct them until they were able to grasp the truth. After His resurrection, He appeared to them numerous times, explaining the Scriptures and helping them understand how everything had been fulfilled.
In conclusion, the disciples’ misunderstanding of Jesus’ teachings was due in part to their worldview and limited understanding. However, it’s important to note that their redemption came through continued learning and growth in their relationship with Him. We too can learn from their example by being open to correction and seeking understanding through a deeper relationship with Christ.