Some of Jesus’ sayings and parables are baffling at first glance. When we first hear Jesus characterize citizens of his kingdom as impoverished, sorrowful, happy-to-be-persecuted beggars, we might be confused. When he told people to eat his flesh and drink his blood – a metaphor for absorbing Jesus’ life and teachings into themselves – many followers were disgusted and left him (John 6:66).
How do we comprehend these things? How do we better understand Jesus’ words?
1) The simplest explanation is usually the right one. While on earth, Jesus chose things like dirt, weeds, and flowers to teach some of the greatest truths (Matthew 6:25-33). Jesus kept it simple. The common people – the average person – “heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37). They comprehended him easily. The spiritual elites believed the average, unlearned Israelite was incapable of understanding God’s word (John 7:49). Who was right?
2) Jesus meant to be understood. Though Jesus kept his teachings veiled from those who meant him or his disciples harm, ultimately, he meant to be understood. This was prophesied (Psalm 78:1-2; Matthew 13:14-15; cf. Isaiah 6:9-10). The most important truths of Scripture are not hard to grasp. There are curiosities we may never have answered, but the truths we need to know are plain. Isn’t it reasonable to assume that Jesus intended to be understood?
3) Hearing is a heart issue. We can listen with our ears, but hearing is a spiritual exercise. It is a discipline. When one is convinced Jesus is the resurrected son of God, he will seek to understand Jesus more, rather than balk at the difficulties sometimes inherent in his words. If we complain about Jesus’ words being too difficult, could we be revealing our own heart problem?
Do you understand dirt and weeds? Flowers and grass? What about ovens, salt, light, and taxes? One of the great questions we can ask ourselves is, “Do I really want to know?”
Far more difficult than comprehending the words of Jesus is applying them.