A child can understand what is necessary to believe in Jesus, but no one can fully understand Jesus because He is the infinite God.
Jesus allowed Himself to be misunderstood often. We cannot fully understand what He said. If He explained what he said and did, even to those who believe in Him, it would take limitless books if it were written.
At the time of His birth, a few people, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi (who came from probably 600 miles away to worship Him), Simeon and Anna were the closest to understanding. They probably knew He was Immanuel “God with us” and the Savior of the world.
An angle told Joseph:
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:22-23
An angle told Mary:
“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end…The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:32-35
An angel told the shepherds:
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11
What God had revealed to Simeon and Anna:
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss[d] your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” Luke 2:25-38
The Jews were looking for a Messiah. What they understood about Him varied according to their closeness to God and their study of the Scripture. The rest of the world knew nothing.
God reveals Himself to those who seek for Him and often His grace is extended to others, but most of the world doesn’t know Him. God is Spirit and because we don’t see Him many don’t believe. But He did come in the flesh – that is who Jesus is:
“Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16
“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.,,” 1 John 4:2-3
“I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” 2 John 1:7
The devil entices people to sin and to unbelief. Nature is enough to know there is a God worth knowing:
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
Besides nature itself, there are countless references that link God to nature in the Bible.
We see that Jesus was completely misunderstood by those who refuse to believe in Him. But Jesus was misunderstood even by those who seek Him and know Him. Jesus was misunderstood when He was twelve years old:
“Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Luke 2:41-52
Jesus was certainly not being disobedient or inconsiderate when He didn’t tell His parents He was going to the temple. He simply assumed they would know where He was. However, it did cause them suffering.
Probably, if He had asked, they would have told Him not to go to the temple because they had to return home. And going to the temple was God the Father’s plan for Jesus. We can know that He realized His calling even then. It all worked out for good.
Possibly, “he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them”, was added to make sure we understand that Jesus was obedient to His parents even though there had been this misunderstanding. We can know that we are to be obedient to our parents. Even Jesus, who was God who created everything, knows everything and is all powerful, was obedient to His earthly parents.
Jesus learned wisdom and how to deal with people. He had to learn just as we do:
“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” This was God’s plan for Jesus just as it is for us.
When Jesus spoke in parables, He knew that He wouldn’t be understood by most:
“The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.’” Matthew 13:10-17
Jesus knew some people would not understand because their “heart has become calloused”.
A prerequisite to understanding Jesus is “the fear of the Lord”:
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7
John the Baptist came before Jesus to prepare their hearts to accept Him:
“A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3 Matthew 3:3 Mark 1:3 Luke 3:4
“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.” Malachi 3:1 Matthew 11:10 Mark 1:2 Luke 7:27
If we believe in Jesus, we will be able to understand Him more and more:
“Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” Matthew 13:12, 25:29 Mark 4:25
Jesus is the Word:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind…
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-14
We know that whenever we read the Word, we learn something new. Sometimes we misunderstand a passage, but that misunderstanding will be cleared eventually if we trust in Jesus.
If we do not understand something Jesus said or think it contradicts the rest of Scripture or known facts, it is simply because we do not understand Him. We can pray that we will, study to find the answer and then wait patiently till it is revealed:
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth,” 2 Timothy 2:15
The knowledge of Him will go on for eternity. We will always have the excitement of learning more about Him.