Jesus Explains How to Understand Him

Jesus Explains How to Understand Him

The disciples failed to understand Jesus 

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:5-12, ESV). 

When the disciples heard Jesus say to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6), they misunderstood Jesus and thought He was admonishing them because they forgot to bring bread with them. Because of their misunderstanding, they were overcome with guilt and anxiety about their minor failure to bring a few pieces of bread.  

“How is it you fail to understand...?” said Jesus while confronting His disciples. Amid their guilt and anxiety, Jesus took time to explain to His disciples, how to understand Him. 

Jesus explains 

We all want to understand Jesus or understand Him better. So, it is wise to pay attention to what Jesus said to His disciples about understanding Him. Jesus explained to the disciples, they lacked two things necessary for understanding Him.  

  1. Context: First, when He admonished them saying, “O you of little faith...”, Jesus tied the disciples’ lack of understanding to their lack of faith in Him. Our trust in Jesus provides the right context for understanding Him. 
  2. Scope: Second, when He asked them, “Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand...,” Jesus implied, if they remembered what He had done in their midst, they would have understood Him, and saved themselves from feeling guilt and anxiety over the lack of a few pieces of bread. Remembering what Jesus has done provides us the scope of what He could do. attention to what Jesus said to His disciples about understanding Him.

What did Jesus expect the disciples to do? 

Based on what Jesus taught the disciples, it appears, Jesus expected the disciples to say, “Lord, we forgot to bring bread with us, but since you blessed five loaves and fed five thousand with them, we are not concerned about the lack of a few pieces of bread, when you are with us. We trust you, Lord. If needed, you can bless these rocks and turn them into bread.” 

In response to the above hypothetical response by the disciples, instead of saying, “O you of little faith,” Jesus might have replied, “I commend your faith in Me and your memory of the miracles I have done in your midst. Your faith will be rewarded.” 

How to improve our understanding of Jesus Christ 

The disciples’ failure to understand Jesus Christ submerged them under feelings of unnecessary guilt and anxiety. Even today, Christians, who do not understand or misunderstand His teachings in the Bible may experience guilt and anxiety in their relationship with Jesus Christ. 

The above lesson by Jesus to His disciples can help us even today to understand His words recorded in the Bible—first, trust Him, and then remember what He has already done, when attempting to understand him. 

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Paul Swamidass

Paul Swamidass, PhD, is Professor Emeritus, Harbert College of Business, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA. After a total of 33 years of teaching and publishing as a business management professor, he retired from Auburn University in 2016 after teaching there for 24 years. He teaches Biblical Leadership for Kerusso Institute for Global Leadership. His newest book is, Greater Things: The Qualifications of a Biblical Leader, Vide Press, 2020. He and his wife Nimmi worship at Lakeview Baptist Church, Auburn, AL.

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