The manner in which Jesus conveyed important facts about the nature of God’s Kingdom was apparently, or at least sometimes lost even on his own disciples. His parables used a rich mix of natural symbolism to convey spiritual principles. His purpose in this teaching method was to make it possible for people with little formal training in theology to grasp the perspectives of God.
With his disciples in tow and in regular witness to his miraculous abilities, Jesus used his ministry to build them up to do his work after he left this earth in bodily form. But true to human nature, his disciples did struggle to grasp the meaning of his parables.
The Bible does not shy from sharing this harsh fact with its readers. There is a purpose to this. In many ways the illuminating statement in Matthew 15:16 helps us recognize in ourselves the difficulties the disciples sometimes had in understanding their teacher’s message. The New International Version depicts Jesus harshly questioning their very ability to be his disciples if they cannot comprehend his method of teaching.
New International Version
“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them.
He’s pretty rough on them.
The New Living Translation goes a little easier on the disciples, depicting a Christ eager to teach and somewhat impatient in dealing with disciples.
New Living Translation
“Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked.
The English Standard Version compares the disciples to the people at large or first experiencing his message.
English Standard Version
And he said, “Are you also still without understanding?
The same goes with the New American Standard translation. Jesus takes his disciples to task for being slow on the uptake. The King James translation is much similar.
New American Standard Bible
Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also?
King James Bible
And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
Consider the urgency of the Holman Christian Standard Bible a challenge to us all. After all, we’ve had 2000 years or so to get a grip that the symbolism Jesus used to convey spiritual principles was not meant to be taken literally nor left on the table to fend for itself in conveying the urgent matter of reaching the Kingdom of God:
Holman Christian Standard Bible
“Are even you still lacking in understanding?” He asked.
Then we encounter the abrupt take of the International Standard Version and the NET Bible, both of which throw a direct slam at the disciples.
International Standard Version
Jesus said, “Are you still so ignorant?
Jesus said, “Even after all this, are you still so foolish?
It comes down to this: No matter what translation you choose, the bible is clear in showing that Jesus expects a bit more from his disciples, and all of us, than short-sighted, lazy thinking. It’s clearly not enough to state that “God said it, and I believe it.” Jesus did not allow that brand of thinking in his disciples, and it certainly is no more valued as a mode of thinking today.
Think about that next time you hear someone claiming the earth was created in 7 literal days, or trying to turn their interpretation of scripture into the law of the nation. Jesus did not tolerate those methods in his closest advisors or the enemies of the kingdom of God.
All those who failed to grasp the true message of God were called to account. Do you want to be one of the people who through false-minded zealotry or an aggressive desire fro control and power turn the message of Christ into something that it wasn’t meant to be?
Not on your life.