Why Don't the Disciples Understand What Jesus is Saying?

You can't handle the truth!

Luke 18:31-34 (ESV)

And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

Yet again, Jesus foretells His crucifixion. But the other two times (Luke 9:22 & 44) He didn’t go into the gory details. Now He does.

But first He explains what those gory details are all about. It’s so that everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.

I recently watched a surprisingly good movie titled “Oz the Great and Powerful.” It’s portraits of evil are useful and quite biblical. But, because it’s a prequel, it has a predetermined finish. By the end of the movie, the characters and settings of the original “Wizard of Oz” must be put into place. The earlier movie functions as a prophesy. This all works out quite cleverly and it’s impressive how all the pieces come together. Disney gets an A on this one. (Note: The evil is a bit too vivid for young eyes.)

The action here is like that. These things were prophesied long ago, so that when they happened people would recognize them for what they are – the signs of the arrival of the Messiah. But the evil is pretty vivid and watching it unfold according to plan is chilling.

The last verse makes sense in this context. But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. Why say something while deliberately hiding the meaning from the audience, especially this audience?

The answer has to be that Jesus wants to plant something in their heads for future reference, but they can’t handle it just yet.

I couldn’t have handled it either.


There are lots of things we don’t seem to be able to handle – namely the neediness of our neighbors. People are in a lot of pain, and they don’t talk about it. It’s all around us, but we’d rather not see it. So we don’t.

If you think you’re ready to handle this (that’s a serious “if”) then let’s get started. Specifically, ask God to open your eyes to the needs all around you. Our hearts seem pretty compassionate already (though praying about that is always important), but we need to give those hearts more exposure.

Understand that this is asking for pain. We should be so moved that we are unable to do nothing about it.

You don’t have to go to a third world country to see despair. You don’t have to go ten miles.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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