Seek understanding, when the words of Jesus Christ are Puzzling

Seek understanding, when the words of Jesus Christ are Puzzling

Are you puzzled by what Jesus said?

Are you puzzled by what Jesus said?

Whether you are reading the Bible for the first time, or reading it as a seasoned Christian, you may, sometimes, find the words of Jesus Christ puzzling.

The Bible records that some people were puzzled when they heard Jesus Christ. Some continued to ask questions in their effort to understand Him. Here is an example from the encounter of Nicodemus with Jesus:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” (John 3:3-4, NASB).

Nicodemus was puzzled when Jesus said to him, “unless one is born again.” Jesus frequently has something new to say—He is not teaching the same old. He explained Himself when people were puzzled and asked Him for an explanation.

Years later, the same Nicodemus joined Joseph of Arimathea by contributing spices to prepare the body of Jesus to give Him an honorable burial (John 19: 39-40) after His death upon the cross. It appears, Nicodemus continued to follow Jesus after his puzzling first meeting with Him—by the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, Nicodemus perhaps had a better understanding of Jesus Christ, and followed Him to the crucifixion and ministered to Him, as needed.

A Samaritan woman’s puzzling encounter with Jesus

Nicodemus was not the only one to be puzzled by Jesus’ answers. The un-named “woman at the well” in Samaria, who met Jesus, was puzzled too.

The woman said to him [Jesus], “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?” (John 4:9-11, ESV).

This woman was puzzled but she did not give up. She wanted to understand Jesus, even though she did not know, who He was and what He was saying. There are many like her, who are puzzled by what Jesus says or when they read about Him in the Bible. She did not quit, she continued to ask questions (John 4:15).

Soon after, through her conversation with Jesus, she understood, who Jesus was. Her eyes were opened. She realized she was with the promised Messiah because Jesus revealed it to her.

After her eyes were opened, she ran back to town and brought the townspeople to Jesus—she acted without hesitation. Her actions brought the whole town to Jesus, and they believed in Him because of one woman, who took the time and effort to understand what Jesus said.

The Bible records many things Jesus said. If you do not know Him, what you read about Him may puzzle you like it puzzled Nicodemus and the woman at the well. In the end, after asking questions, paying attention, and striving to understand Him, they got the message; they understood Him, they got to know who He was.

Disciples were puzzled when Jesus asked them to do the impossible

Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve [disciples] came and said to him [Jesus], “Send the crowd [5000 men plus women and children] away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.”

But he [Jesus] said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish...” there were about five thousand men [not counting women and children] ... (Luke 9:12-14, ESV).

His disciples were puzzled when Jesus asked them to feed thousands of men, women, and children—it was beyond them. A miracle was waiting to happen after Jesus asked the disciples to do the impossible. Jesus did not tell His disciples He was going to do a miracle by feeding 5000 men plus another 5000-10,000 women and children with almost nothing.

The disciples, who had been with Jesus, could not understand how they could feed 5000 men plus thousands of women and children. But they followed His instructions to seat the people, and eventually, they saw the miraculous feeding of thousands by Jesus Himself, while the disciples assisted.

Did people understand Jesus eventually?

In each puzzling, first-time encounter with Jesus described above, after asking questions to understand Jesus, Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and His disciples had a better understanding of Jesus. Initially, they were puzzled by what He said. Yet, they did not quit but asked questions and got to know Jesus better.

If you are puzzled by what Jesus said in the Bible or by His life described in the Bible, continue to seek to understand Him 

Your encounter with Jesus

If you are puzzled by what Jesus said in the Bible or by His life described in the Bible, continue to seek to understand Him just as Nicodemus and the woman at the well did. His disciples teach us, “Follow Him, your understanding will catch up.”

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Paul Swamidass

Paul Swamidass, PhD, is Professor Emeritus, Harbert College of Business, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA. After a total of 33 years of teaching and publishing as a business management professor, he retired from Auburn University in 2016 after teaching there for 24 years. He teaches Biblical Leadership for Kerusso Institute for Global Leadership. His newest book is, Greater Things: The Qualifications of a Biblical Leader, Vide Press, 2020. He and his wife Nimmi worship at Lakeview Baptist Church, Auburn, AL.

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