Why We Don't Understand Jesus
Chan Gin Kai
And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. While everyone was marvelling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it. (Luke 9:43b-45)
The Transfiguration had just happened and Jesus healed a demon-possessed boy right after. While everyone was marvelling at all that Jesus did, he pulled his disciples aside and told them that he was going to be arrested and killed.
Pride Breeds Ignorance
Jesus didn’t enjoy or soak in the adulation of the people, but thought instead of his impending death. It was a path that Jesus was determined to walk, and it was starting to trouble him more too. He hoped his closest friends would be behind him, but they did not understand him, and “they were afraid to ask him about it.”
This was the second time Jesus told his disciples about his death. It'll be the third time if we count the Transfiguration, when three of the disciples heard Moses, Elijah and Jesus discuss his death. They could at least have guessed by now that it was important enough to warrant a repeat and an awe-inspiring event. Jesus even told them, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you...” So why were they afraid to ask Jesus when it was so important?
Were they afraid of looking ignorant to Jesus? Or did they fear looking stupid in front of each other?
Pride breeds ignorance. It creates a bubble of self-importance that bursts at the slightest touch. We try so hard to protect this fragile illusion of strength and intelligence that we fear conversations and questions that risk exposing our ignorance. It is ironic that the fear of looking dumb makes us dumber.
We have no one to blame for our ignorance but ourselves. The best way to counter ignorance is to not fear looking stupid or weak. We need to ask for advice and not be afraid to ask for help. We need to confess our sins to each other too. It is when we are open to God and our friends about our weaknesses that we get strengthened. It is when we admit that we do not know that we can learn.
Pride breeds ignorance, stopping us from properly understanding Jesus.
Self-Focus Breeds Worldly Thinking
An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” (Luke 9:46-48)
Instead of focusing on what concerned Jesus more, the disciples argued among each other. Jesus was pouring out his heart to them, telling them that he was going to die, and they were wondering who among them was the greatest. In fact, they were so competitive that they were even jealous that someone else used Jesus’ name. They felt possessive.
“Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)
So here’s the other reason why the disciples couldn’t understand Jesus – they were too focused on themselves. They were more consumed about their own interests. They cared more about personal accomplishments and recognition. They got competitive with each other and even people they didn't know. Does this sound familiar? How many of us spend the bulk of our waking hours in similar worldly pursuits?
As Christians, we know material things can never really satisfy us and we’ve learnt the importance of godly pursuits. But sadly, we can get competitive, even in “godly things”. We seek recognition for the good we’ve done and feel hurt when our contribution goes unnoticed. We want to be respected, and feel offended when our leadership is questioned. We can develop worldly attitudes even when pursuing godly goals.
God’s ways are the opposite of the world’s. We cannot be the center and focus of our own life. Jesus used the example of a little child to show us the innocence we should strive for. We must give up thinking like the world if we want to understand God's ways.
Self-focus breeds worldly thinking, and that distracts us from understanding Jesus.
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".