Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 22, 1949
NUMBER 20, PAGE 5-6b

Why Did They Not Understand?

J. A. Thrasher

According to Luke's account, when Jesus plainly told the twelve what his enemies were about to do to him (Lk.18:31-34), "they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken." This is astonishing to us, for there is no plainer language found anywhere. We have no difficulty in understanding it, and we can hardly see why those twelve disciples could fail to comprehend it.

Of course they were not expecting anything like that to happen to one so wise and powerful as Jesus had demonstrated himself to be in their presence. However, they must have known that certain of the Jewish rulers were determined to do him harm. But they had knowledge of how Jesus had thwarted their attempts along that line, such as when he evaded those who were about to throw him over a precipice at Nazareth (Lk. 4:28-30). All such incidents would naturally lead them to believe that Jesus could ward off his enemies.

But there is another solution which we are apt to overlook, and that is that the Jews generally, including the twelve, had the wrong conception concerning their Messiah and his kingdom—that it would be temporal, like that they had once had under David and his successors. One could hardly expect them to have had any other idea, for nothing like the kingdom of Christ had ever existed on earth prior to that time. There had been plenty of earthly kingdoms, but no spiritual ones. And of course they considered that their conceptions were correct ones. When people think they already understand a matter, it is well-nigh impossible to teach them anything with regard to it.

It seems to be R. H. Boll's idea that the Jews entertained correct ideas concerning the kingdom of the Messiah (that it would be of a temporal nature) and he seems to think God should have set them right—if that kingdom was to be of a different nature. What makes him think that Jesus did not teach them quite a good deal concerning the nature of his kingdom, such as in his parables, illustrating that kingdom? Which one of those parables, if any, indicated it would be a temporal one? Do they not all teach the very contrary? Then why intimate the Lord was at fault for the erroneous ideas the Jews entertained? In reality, those Jews were unteachable concerning that subject. Jesus showed his disciples that the Jewish people were unteachable by referring to Isaiah 6:9-10. (See Matt. 13:13-15).

May we not consider it as a remarkable fact that Nicodemus was the only member of the Sanhedrin who ever sought an interview with Jesus? He said, "We know that thou art a teacher come from God." When he used the pronoun "we" he evidently meant to include many of those rulers beside himself. Yet he was the only one of them who was disposed to receive instruction from Jesus. What was wrong with the rest of them? They were evidently as averse to receiving instruction from Jesus as they were from the man born blind (Jno. 9:34).

A temporal kingdom would have "blanketed" every Israelite into it, would it not? In other words, every descendant of Jacob, living at that time would have been recognized as an integral part of such a kingdom. Now notice what Jesus taught Nicodemus regarding membership in the "kingdom of God". "Except a man (any man) be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God". After making a more explicit statement regarding the nature of that essential birth, Jesus plainly told Nicodemus, "Ye must be born again". What for? To enter into the kingdom of God. Can any man fail to see that when a Jew had to be born again (anew) in order to get into the kingdom which Christ was about to establish, his former status as a child of God under the Jewish economy was set aside?