When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” … Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember … But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 16:5-12 NIV 1984
The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” … Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist. Matthew 17:10-13 NIV 1984
Jesus had multiple times where the Twelve were slow to grasp the meaning of His teaching or their experiences with Him. He demonstrates amazing patience as they struggle to really understand the meaning of all that was happening. Sometimes we can see what appears to be a chiding of them or a mild exhortation (“How will you understand any parable?”), but he does wait for them to come to a fuller grasp of the subject. He does not ‘spoon feed’ them; they have to exercise their own thought process.
In the first example in Matthew 16 the statement from Jesus was about avoiding the yeast of the Pharisees. Having just come from two miracles of feeding thousands, the context seemed to dictate the subject of literal bread. This was compounded by the fact that they did have any bread to eat, having forgotten it before they got on board. So they concluded, perhaps He meant, “When we get off, don’t go purchasing any yeast from certain types of religious bread dealers?”
Note that when Jesus queried them about both miracles they accurately repeated the facts of their experience. They knew how many were fed and how much was left over. Though they knew the facts they did not understand the meaning. After some further reflection, they understood the true meaning was to avoid the false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
The second instance begins with a question from the disciples about a prophecy regarding the coming of ‘Elijah’ before the coming of the Messiah. They were growing in their understanding the Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, but then who was this ‘Elijah’ that was to come before Him? With a little explanation, they came to understand that it was John the Baptist. Note that Jesus did not tell them this plainly who it was, they had to deduce it from his explanation.
Sometimes those we lead require a little more help from us to ensure that they truly grasp what they are hearing or experiencing. Don’t assume that just because they know the details that they truly understand the meaning.
Are you discerning or assuming that those around you understand?
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
Luke 24:45 NIV 1984