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The Misunderstood Messiah

If you think people today misinterpret what Jesus said, consider the following verses. These passages show that not only hardened Jews but also His own followers and even the apostles misunderstood Him.

“For He taught His disciples and said to them, ‘The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.’

But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him” (Mark 9:31-32).

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’

Nicodemus said to Him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?’

Jesus answered, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’” (John 3:3-5).

“‘You do the deeds of your father.’ Then they said to Him, ‘We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God…’

‘Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.

You are of your father the devil…’” (John 8:41, 43-44).

“Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, ‘But Lord, what about this man?’

Jesus said to him, ‘If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.’

Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, ‘If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?’” (John 21:21-23).

There are many other examples. In fact, almost every chapter in the book of John shows someone failing to grasp what Jesus said. This book of the Bible could be described as the misunderstood Messiah.

Jesus was there in person. They could ask Him questions and listen to His answers as well as hear the lessons He taught. The Lord did not use big words or appeal to fine points of Hebrew grammar. His words were simple but the thought was profound.

Why did so many people, including the apostles, misunderstand the Lord? Why do so many today misinterpret what He said?

The Jews who rejected Him were just plain stubborn. They hardened their hearts and closed their eyes because they did not want His teaching (Matt. 13:15). Many in our time don’t understand what Jesus said because they don’t want to understand Him.

Sometimes people don’t understand Jesus because they don’t listen carefully to what He said. They listen to part of what He said and then jump to conclusions. That is why the disciples thought Jesus said one of them would never die.

Often people misunderstand Jesus because they already have their mind made up before they read a verse or before they read all of it. The Jews in general and the apostles in particular believed the Messiah was coming to establish political supremacy in the nation of Israel. That is what they thought of when they heard words like “king” or “kingdom.” Although the Lord plainly said “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36) and refused to be an earthly king (John 6:15), millions of fundamentalists and evangelicals strongly believe that He came for the very purpose and even taught it to His disciples.

It is time to take Jesus’ words seriously: “Take heed how you hear” (Luke 8:18).


West End church of Christ bulletin article for February 5, 2023


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