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Don’t Think You Understand, Make Sure You Understand

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Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”
(Matthew 26:57-68 ESV)


Yesterday we saw that, despite their attempts, the scribes and elders could not find any false testimony against Jesus. But at last two came forward and said “This man [Jesus] said ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.'” But these words were a misquote of what Jesus really said.

What Jesus said was “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” [John 2:18-22]. First of all, Jesus was not threatening to destroy the temple but was prophesying that those He was speaking to would destroy it. Second of all, Jesus was not speaking of the Temple in Jerusalem, He was speaking of His own body, which the Jewish leaders would destroy (i.e. kill).

But since even these two witnesses could not agree on exactly what Jesus said [Mark 14:58-59] their testimony was inadmissible because according to Mosaic law, one witness is not sufficient testimony against a person to put him to death [Numbers 35:30]. Rather, two or three witnesses were required [Deuteronomy 17:6].

It’s not uncommon for people to misquote and therefore misunderstand what God says. Satan has been twisting the words of God and convincing man to believe it since the Garden of Eden [Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1]. But sadly, just like with Adam and Eve, when we act on words we don’t understand – or worse, think we do understand – we make bad decisions.

There are many passages in the Bible that non-Christians think they do understand but actually don’t. And these misunderstandings lead them to reject God to their own detriment.

For example, many people reject God because they think the Bible subjugates women. They arrive at that flawed conclusion based on a misunderstanding – and out-of-context interpretation – of Ephesians 5:22. But such a conclusion is clearly not true as we learned last year when we studied that verse.

But without question the most misapplied verse is Matthew 7:1, which we studied earlier this year: “Judge not that you be not judged.”. Bible critics often like to accuse Christians of hypocrisy based on this verse which they often quote as “The Bible says not to judge.”.

But, of course, in order for one to accuse someone of judging based on this verse they must themselves judge that person, thereby rendering themselves a hypocrite.

The point is that we must understand – not just think we understand – before taking actions on what we claim to understand. As Stephen Covey stated in his seminal book The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People: seek first to understand then to be understood (habit #5).

Sadly many people reject God because they misunderstand Him. Perhaps they got information from someone else who had no idea what they were talking about (the blind leading the blind [Matthew 15:14]). Or maybe they read the Bible rather than studying it.

Not having the proper information about God leads to rejection of Him. God wants us all to know the truth [1 Timothy 2:4]. And He’s given us that truth in the Bible. It’s up to us to make sure we understand it. If we don’t, we are apt to make decisions that lead ourselves into a very unpleasant eternity.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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