It’s the night before Jesus will be crucified. He provides a place for the Passover meal. He washes the disciples’ feet. He points out the one who will betray Him. He challenges the one who will deny Him (John 13).

Then He starts talking. In my Bible, the next four chapters (John 14-17) are almost all red print. This is Jesus’ conclusion to the sermon His life has preached for the last three years. Setting the precedent for all good pastors, He even says, “I will not say much more to you” at the end of John 14, then continues for three more chapters! (How many times has some long-winded pastor gotten my hopes up in this way only to repeat himself for another fifteen minutes? I can’t even count.)

No disrespect intended. Obviously, Jesus had important things still to say: many important things…most of which the disciples didn’t understand. But then again, they didn’t understand Jesus most of the time. Shortly before Jesus’ “upper room discourse,” John tells us,

At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.  –John 12:16

His disciples did not understand all this.

If they didn’t understand the symbolism of Jesus riding into town on a donkey (John 13:12-15), there was no way they would understand all the imagery and spiritual references Jesus made on that last night.

Was anyone taking notes? Only John records Jesus’ words here (perhaps because he was the youngest and thus had the best memory).

But here’s the awesome part: Jesus didn’t expect them to understand it all.

He tells them,

All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  –John 14:25-26

Jesus had to get the words
into their memories.

Jesus just had to get the words out there into the atmosphere and into their memory banks. Later, when the time was right, when the disciples could take a breath, reflect on everything that happened, talk among themselves…later, the Holy Spirit would bring these words back to mind and show the disciples what Jesus had meant. (My post, The Power of Peace focuses on the next verse, John 14:27.)

I see two applications here.

I Don’t Have to Know

First, I am so encouraged by this observation. Lots of times, I don’t at first understand what I read in the Bible. You can’t see it, but I write to understand, not to show you what I already know. Even as I write today, I was intrigued by these verses, so I sat down to see what the Lord might show me.

We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand. -C. Day Lewis (

I’m willing to bet you don’t always understand what you read in the Bible either. That’s okay! We can work to understand through study notes, commentaries, and other research, and I know God is honored by this pursuit of understanding. But sometimes a passage still isn’t clear even after extensive study. When we arrive at that point, we can put the question/dilemma aside. We don’t forget about it; we just release the urgency of it. Often, the Holy Spirit reminds us of it later, and we discover we’ve come to understand or the answer lies right in front of us.

One thing we know for certain:
God has the answer.

One thing we know for certain: God has the answer. In learning to trust Him, we learn to refer our questions to Him. If we don’t receive an answer in this life, we’ll know all we need to know in Heaven. It’s taken me awhile to release the need to know everything, but as my trust in God increases, I’m more comfortable with the not knowing.

I Don’t Have to Explain

Second, I don’t have to run spiritual conversations into the ground trying to get another person to understand. The Holy Spirit is the Advocate, the Comforter, the Helper, the Counselor (John 14:16 AMP), the Explainer. He reveals Truth in people’s minds. In fact, Jesus calls Him “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17, 15:26).

3 Elements of Evangelism:
1. Word of God
2. Witness of the believer
3. Work of the Holy Spirit

No amount of my words will ever convince someone of spiritual reality. I lay the words out there like Jesus did with the disciples. (And this alone takes boldness. I’m not wimping out of evangelism here.) Then I wait on the Holy Spirit to cause my words to ring true in the other person’s heart. Maybe it’s immediate; maybe it’s years from now. He is fully capable of reminding a person of every word in a conversation from ten years ago.

Isn’t that fantastic? It’s not my job to convince anyone. I just “testify” (John 15:27).

I don’t have to know everything. I don’t have to explain everything. That’s why we have the Holy Spirit. My #understanding is #NotAboutMe via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

How are you comforted/unburdened by the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life? Can you share a story about not understanding something in the Bible, then coming to understand it later? We would all be encouraged to hear about either of these things. Please share in the comments below!

11 thoughts on “It’s Okay If You Don’t Understand

  1. “We’ll know all we need to know in heaven”. Amen! If I’m honest – and that’s debatable – I really don’t want to know what He won’t tell me, though I persist in the pursuit to know none-the-less. Thanks for post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s comforting to know that Jesus recognized that His disciples (and us) would not understand everything. But, to know that we have an Advocate (the Holy Spirit) sent by Jesus is such reassurance of God’s love for us. My examples are too personal to share here, but I’m thankful that your post reminded me of a very dark time in my life that became filled with light when I submitted my burden to Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a great post. There are so many things I learned and believed as a younger Christian that came to full light and became heart-felt convictions through life experience. I understand now, because God has proven Himself over and again, that God is good (for instance). It’s no longer just a statement of truth. It’s a truth I can rest in, no matter my circumstances.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are things we learn early then relearn at deeper levels as we mature. Then there are things we never will understand this side of heaven. Sometimes I want to move the dividing line. Jesus has to come back into my thinking and remind me that He’s the One Who Knows, not me.


  4. I think there have been lots of times that I haven’t fully understood what I’ve read in the Bible—I could probably make the case that I never fully understand since the meaning is so deep—but God has brought new depths of meaning over and over again. I wish I had an example!

    Liked by 1 person

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