Understanding Misunderstanding

Photo by Timur Weber

Not everyone who heard Jesus understood what he was saying. The lawyers, Sadducees, and many Pharisees didn’t understand; otherwise, they wouldn’t have crucified Jesus (Acts 13:27). I wonder how many people who ate from the multiplied loaves and fishes thought they understood Jesus but missed the point? The book of John is especially full of examples of this sort of thing.
When Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again,” Nicodemus missed the point. When Jesus told the crowd, “I am the living bread,” they grumbled because they misunderstood: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:52).
We need to pay attention because it is so easy to misunderstand, think about it!

  1. We can misunderstand because we don’t have all the information. (This is especially true when evaluating so-called discrepancies in the Bible!)
  2. We can misunderstand because we have the wrong information. (“I thought there were three wise men at the birth of Jesus.”)
  3. We can misunderstand because we make decisions based on our past. (“That’s what I’ve always been taught.”)
  4. We can misunderstand because we are afraid to disagree with the crowd. (“Yet at the same time, many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees, they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God,” John 12:42, 43).
  5. We can misunderstand because we don’t want to understand. (“Don’t confuse me with the facts.” See Acts 26:28 and think about King Agrippa’s reaction to Paul.) 

What should we do? Let’s follow the example of the noble Bereans who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Remember: The Scriptures are full of surprises!

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