Summary: Misunderstand is accidentally or deliberate. Jesus dealt with the accidental by bringing witnesses, going to the root of the issue, and affirming the questioner; with the deliberate by refusing to make others happy, being true to Himself, letting actions
It’s easy to be misunderstood. Misunderstanding happens all the time. It is very, very easy to be misunderstood.
One way to be misunderstood is to be vague and hazy. Just mumble under your breath and utter ambiguities, and I guarantee that you will be misunderstood. Some of you are devotees of the mystery show, "Rumpole." Rumpole is a lawyer in a British courtroom, and he has a way of voicing unflattering opinions of the judges. But he always does it under his breath, with a carefully chosen mumble, and with words which can easily be switched around, just in the nick of time. The judge kind of thought he heard him saw, "Blithering old idiot"; but when challenged Rumpole explains that he really said, "Blizzard in the thicket.”
You can be misunderstood, if you like, by being vague and hazy.
Or, you can be misunderstood if you speak in formalities and technicalities. If you persist in using specialized, technical jargon, you can be misunderstood by us lesser mortals, who are not initiated in the ways of your world.
There was the lawyer in a personal injury suit, for example, who asked the plaintiff, "And is it true that you were shot in the lumbar region?" The answer came back, "No sir, we weren’t in the woods at all."
The follow-up question, "Well, sir, I understand you and the defendant were involved in an altercation". "Oh, no sir, he’s not my tailor."
Let’s try again, "But didn’t he shoot you in the fracas?" "Well, I would say it was about midway between the fracas and the navel!"
If you insist in speaking in technicalities, you can easily be misunderstood.
There are other possibilities, if you are interested in being misinterpreted. You can talk to people who are so woodenheaded and distracted, that they don’t really hear you. They hear you but they don’t hear you. Richard Nixon was shaking hands at an airport one day, and a little girl asked, "How is Smokey doing?" Nixon looked puzzled, and so an aide whispered in his ear, "Smokey the Bear, National Zoo". At that the president’s face brightened, he stuck out his hand, and grinned, "How do you do, Miss Bear?"!
It’s easy to be misunderstood, if you choose the wrong audience!
But what if you as a person are misunderstood? What if someone deeply, profoundly misunderstands you? Not just what you say, but who you are? What if you find that your motives are suspect and your character is called into question? What if they say that you are ineffective at what you are doing, and they devalue you as a person? What then? What do you do about it if you are deeply and profoundly misunderstood? You really don’t want that!
Jesus faced such a situation. Jesus was misunderstood. Jesus is the friend of the misunderstood because He Himself had to face so much misunderstanding.
In the passage of Scripture for today, there are two levels of misunderstanding which Jesus encountered. There are two different kinds of misunderstanding which He faced. Accidental misunderstanding and deliberate misunderstanding. Accidental and deliberate. I’d like us to see how Jesus responded to each of these.
There are two levels or two kinds of misunderstanding in this incident: accidental and deliberate.
There is accidental misunderstanding. Accidental misunderstanding results from incomplete communication. It’s the misunderstanding that comes about because someone hasn’t communicated clearly and thoroughly.
John the Baptist was in prison. Not exactly a situation which allows for clarity. He is hearing rumors. All kinds of things are being said about Jesus, and some of them are disturbing. John doesn’t know what it means. And so John sends out a question, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" "Jesus, are you really the chosen one of God, or do we have to wait for another several hundred years for God to keep His promises?" John didn’t know how to understand Jesus. Jesus was misunderstood; but it was the kind of misunderstanding that comes from incomplete communication.
Now I want you to look at what Jesus did with this misunderstanding. This is going to be very practical. No abstractions. Just a very practical lesson in human relationships.
First, Jesus brought other people into the picture. He brought in other people who could witness to what they knew and what they had seen and heard. "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them." Jesus’ strategy is to say to John’s friends, "Don’t deal in rumors. Just listen and watch, and then go tell John what you see and hear."