Summary: Christ was the event toward which the whole history of the Old Testament moved. Without the Old Testament we cannot know what it was that He fulfilled, and, therefore, the Old Testament is a vital part of the Christian faith.
Misunderstanding is a part of life, and much of the laughter of life is due to it. One little
guy surprised his whole family one evening at the supper table by asking which virgin
was Jesus' mother? Was it the Mary virgin, or the King James Virgin? He had
misunderstood one word and was confused. Much humor is based on misunderstanding
another's meaning. The judge, for example, asked the accused: "Have you ever been up
before me?" The accused responded, "I don't know judge. When do you usually get
If misunderstanding is limited to jokes, it would be an enjoyable aspect of life.
Unfortunately, it is not limited to jokes. Even when it leads to something funny it can be
terribly embarrassing for the one who misunderstands. Like the newly elected secretary
of the youth group, who was told it was her duty to keep a record of the minutes of the
meetings. The next time they met she announced the last meeting had been 20 minutes
and 36 seconds. She had misunderstood the meaning of minutes.
This is a major problem in communication, because words can have more than one
meaning. It is so easy to take words literally that are not meant that way. A mother
asked her little boy if he thanked the neighbor lady for the party. "I was going to," he
said, "But when the little girl ahead of me did, the lady said not to mention it. So I
didn't." He took her words literally. One of the major problems of marriage is mates
who do not grasp what the other is really saying. One of the major problems of any
organization is communication breakdown that leads to misunderstanding. During
World War I American soldiers whistled when the French Premiere came on the screen.
The French soldiers rushed at them in anger, but before they came to blows, someone
was able to explain the American behavior. To whistle in our culture was to express
approval, but to the French it expressed disapproval. It was all a matter of
One of the major problems that Jesus had in living the life of a man was in being
misunderstood. His own disciples did not understand He was going through agony in His
final hours, and they slept while He wept in Gethsemane. They did not grasp much of
what He tried to teach them, and in their misunderstanding they even tried to stop Him
from going to the cross. The Pharisees misunderstood Him completely. They thought
He was a law breaker, and one who was defying the God of Israel. They did not see His
love and compassion for the sinner as good news. They saw His association with sinners,
and His violation of the Sabbath by healing then, as the action of a rebel rather than a
redeemer. They totally misunderstood Jesus and His mission.
Amiel in his journal says it was one of the greatest wounds men inflicted upon Jesus.
He was the great misunderstood, and the least comprehended. Jesus says to His
disciples, "Beware the leaven of the Pharisees," and they debate about bread. He says, "I
have meat to eat ye know not of," and again they wonder where He got bread. "Destroy
this temple and in 3 days I will raise it up," He said, and the leaders of Israel wondered
how He could build what took decades to construct in only 3 days. On and on it goes, and
even the intelligent leader Nicodemus asked, "How can I go back into my mother's womb
and be born again?"
Everybody kept misunderstanding Jesus, and taking His word so literally they came to
strange conclusions. This is still a major problem today, and it will be one of the
struggles we face in going through the Sermon on the Mount. We will have to spend a
great deal of time and effort in explaining what Jesus did not mean. So many take the
words of Jesus in a literal sense that leads to deep misunderstanding, and some have even
cut off their hands to try and prevent sinning. It bothered me as I studied this sermon,
that so much of what Jesus says has to be explained again and again to prevent wrong
conceptions. But as I focused on verse 17, I realized this was the very thing Jesus had to
do Himself in giving the sermon.
"Think not I have come to destroy the law," Jesus said. In so saying, He acknowledges
that He knows He has already been misunderstood, or that He will be. He is trying to
clarify His position and avoid misunderstanding. I realize that if Jesus had to do this,
then it is just an inevitable part of life, and the process of communication. There is no