Some people feel frustrated that Jesus spoke in parables, metaphors, what the Bible called “dark sayings.” A friend in small group study said, “Why didn’t he just speak in plain English?” Leaving aside for a moment the fact that nobody spoke in English in those days, plain or otherwise, I can see the point. Why did Jesus seem to want to leave the people scratching their heads or obviously misunderstanding what He meant?
For example, consider the time in John 6 when He said that people needed to eat His body and drink His blood. People misunderstood that one, to the extent that He lost the vast majority of His followers. Why in the world didn’t He just explain?
The majority of people walked away from one story and another amazed at His wisdom but arguing among themselves as to exactly what that wisdom was seeking to convey.
Only a few of them actually took the time and trouble—and were audacious enough—to ask.
In Matthew 13, some of the followers of Jesus—and Mark 4:10 makes it clear that it was more than just the twelve disciples—came to Him personally to say, “Please explain.”
And He did. He explained. He explained it completely, and commended them for asking.
He still does that.
It seems that some people read the Scriptures and then, if they want to understand it at all (often it seems that they don’t, because their Bible reading is simply a duty to be checked off), they try to reason out the meaning with their intellectual abilities, or they go straight to the commentaries or go discuss it in their study groups.
I’m not disparaging commentaries or study groups—they’re both important gifts from God. But it seems that all too often people who love God fail to actually ask God to teach them what it means. They fail to allow quiet time to reflect and ponder and ask the Holy Spirit to bring other Scriptures to their minds. They fail to keep on in prayer over a passage of Scripture, meditating on it, waiting to be taught by the Lord.
Sometimes I’m guilty too. But when the Lord brought me to this stark realization in 2008 that I blogged about here, I looked back over my life and saw that it was the times (very few!) that I had cried out for an opening of the eyes that He had shown me great things.
That’s possible every single time we open the Scriptures. Even when it may seem like nothing is getting through our thick skulls or transforming our hearts, if we’re asking Him to enlighten our understanding, He is working that out. It may look different at different times. Sometimes for me it’s been a very slow process. Sometimes when I have an epiphany of understanding, it’s because of a slow dawning God has been working in my heart for years.
But we can pray for understanding as we read His Word, with anticipation and confidence, because He has promised. “If you lack wisdom, ask, and He will give it.” Through the dynamic work of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus did in person so long ago. Be daring enough to ask.