Consider Answering This Question That Jesus Posed


In the midst of explaining a parable to the disciples, Jesus stopped and asked them a question:
“Do you understand these things?” (Mt. 13:52)

Now, rule number one in reading Scripture is when Jesus asks a question, you answer it. You don’t keep reading to see how the Apostles or disciples answered it. You stop, put down the Bible, and answer it yourself.

I have deliberately not provided any context to the question Jesus asks above (you can look it up later if you’d like). But for now just stay with this question and apply it to any or all of Scripture. Do you understand these things?

What does it mean to understand? The Greek word that is translated as “understand” is οἴδατε (oidate), which refers to seeing that becomes knowing, seeing and laying hold of something that is a gateway to grasping spiritual truth.

So the question remains: Do you understand these things?

One of the problems for those of us who have some familiarity with the Scriptures is that they are familiar. And while it is good that the Scriptures are well known to us, it is also a problem. A passage begins and we just say, “Oh yeah, that story” and we either tune out or fail to reflect deeply.

But Scripture is always more than just a story or the facts of a text. Even ordinary human acts or words are seldom merely what they seem to be on the surface.

Consider an example my Scripture teacher, Fr. Martin, once gave. You and I are at a gathering and we observe Smith enter the room and immediately go across the room and greet Jones warmly. And I say, “Wow, look at that!” And you say, “What’s the big deal? People shake hands all the time.” And then I reply, “Smith and Jones have been enemies for thirty years.” So there is a depth and a mystery to that simple act that mere observation does not supply. The act occurs at a specific moment in time, but it has a past and points to a future. It also has a depth that must be perceived and appreciated.

And this is what Jesus is calling for when he asks, Do you understand these things? Do you grasp these parables, these teachings, these accounts and stories from Scripture? Do you perceive them with a seeing and a hearing that lead to knowledge and are a gateway to grasping spiritual truth? Or are you just seeing the surface of the text, noting the event, and then moving on?

Further, our “understanding” of them is not a static thing, but a dynamic and growing reality. With each year that we hear the familiar stories and teachings of Scripture, our understanding can and should become deeper and richer.

The Latin Fathers of the Church had a saying that the Scriptures were Non nova, sed nove (not new things, but understood newly). In other words, though the stories and teachings do not change (non nova) our appreciation of them, our grasp and understanding of them is ever new; they are seen newly (nove), appreciated more deeply.

So, as you read the Scriptures, Jesus has a question for you, “Do you understand these things?” Are you just hearing and reading ancient words and events, or are you plumbing their depths? Where are your mind and heart as you perceive the Word of God? Do you ponder it in your heart?

It is not enough to know what something meant for the Apostles or the people of Jesus’ time, or some commentator. What does it mean for you, now? How have you experienced the truth that is announced? What are the implications of the text, teaching, or story for you? Do you see something new that you never saw before?

Do you understand these things?
Here are some other questions Jesus asked: 100 Questions Jesus Asked

7 Replies to “Consider Answering This Question That Jesus Posed”

  1. Thank you frCharles. After few decades into my baptism, i am just starting to appreciate Scriptures and your blog this morning is definitely helpful. Each time i take out my Bible, i will have a word with the Holy Spirit that He helps me remember what i need to remember and understand what i need to understand and now i will ask that He helps me find my answer to Jesus questions.

  2. Good Morning,
    Benny here Whittier Calif 90606,I’m almost 77 Cradle Catholic attended Catholics schools a few years Jr and High Schoold but graduated from a secular School.
    In Catholic Schools we studied Religion everyday and prayed at the start of classes BUT we were never encouraged to read the BIBLE when I would ask the Nuns some ?s they would tell me best to Ask Father that ?
    My wife got me back to church and Mass etc (She passed in 2009) I only recently started reading more Holy Scripture my younger Bro and I discuss our Christian Faith at times over Coffee and we get into some (OPPOSITE VIEWS) discussions he is now Protestant so you can imagine how it goes AND he is assistant Pastor at Agape House of Prayer at his Church.
    Im not too good at Apologetics but i do a little OK!
    Anyway I’m very Happy I Found Your site.Leaving my Email Address and look forward to receiving your Spirtual info and Guidance. Thank You.

    1. Benny, you can also follow the Msgr on Facebook, if you are on it. His posts will then show up in your news feed.

  3. Even as a very small boy, my parents always used to tell me that the key to understanding what it is that Our Lord is saying to us – personally – for us and for our lives for today, was to always commence any Bible reading by becoming quiet and still and then start with a small prayer to ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and show us what truth He wants us to know. Such as, perhaps, this verse from Psalm 119:34 “Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.”
    I would also like to offer a small prayer which I discovered much later in life, composed by the Belgian, Cardinal Mercier to the Holy Spirit for enlightenment and guidance:

    He said, ‘I am going to reveal to you a secret of sanctity and happiness. For five minutes every day quiet your imagination, close your eyes to everything visible and your ears to all external sounds and withdraw into the sanctuary of your baptised soul which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. There, speak to the Holy Spirit and say:
    “O Holy Spirit
    soul of my soul
    I adore you.
    strengthen and console me.
    Tell me what I ought to do
    and command me to do it.
    I promise to submit to everything
    that you ask of me
    and to accept all
    that you allow to happen to me.
    Just show me what is your will.”
    If you do this, your life will be happy and serene. Even in the midst of troubles you will experience great consolation, for grace will be given to strengthen and help you to cope with every difficulty.’

    I have thankfully found that, in simply asking for understanding when applying the truths of scripture to my everyday life, the Holy Spirit always teaches and inspires.
    But – listen for it, in the silence . . . . . .
    God bless all

  4. Sorry to add here but from what I understand from our good Priest in France is that Jesus was not all kind and accepting of what we do.

    In fact Jesus was not all happy and clappy and everything is great. He is the way the truth and the life.

    From what I understand too many Catholics today want to be either liberal or traditional rather than choosing the right path which is the truth. You cannot be liberal or traditional if you follow the truth you just become Catholic.

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