So here’s the plan: each week that the gospels are covered in Sunday School, I will post one question from my book along with a brief discussion of the issues that it raises.
Notice John 9:36. Despite this man’s lack of understanding, he was able to do a pretty fair job of defending Jesus (see verses 11, 14, 17, and especially 30–33). What should you learn from this?
(adapted from Search, Ponder, and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels)
So I think one of the biggest problems that we have as scripture readers is that we assume that everyone understood all of the things, as if somehow just being in Jesus’ presence would lead to clouds of pure doctrine wafting off of him and onto you. But this isn’t the picture we see when we look closely: again and again, people in the scriptures show partial knowledge and weaknesses. We see that with this man: on the one hand, he can state a lot of true things and come to some good conclusions but on the other hand, he is, in some ways, clueless.
Similarly, you have Peter who, on the one hand, realizes that “Christ” is an appropriate title for Jesus but on the other hand wants to give Jesus a little helpful guidance on how to run his life (see Mark 8:29-33).
You see it in the widow of Zeraptheth, who had received a command from the Lord to take care of Elijah (see 1 Kings 17:9) and is willing to give her last bit of food to him–not her son–during a famine . . . but it is only much, much later–after a seriously heart-wrenching event–that she is able to say “Now by this I know that thou art a man of God” (1 Kigns 17:29).
You see it in the father who cried “I believe; help mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
You see it when Lehi murmurs against the Lord (1 Nephi 16:20).
You see it when Paul (1 Corinthians 7:6) and Alma (Alma 40:4-8) couch their teachings to account for their limited knowledge.
I think we need to pay close attention to these imperfect moments. First, if we don’t realize that this is the common lot of fallen humanity, we’re liable to spend time beating ourselves up for no good reason. We may even lose sight of the fact that God has extended an invitation to imperfect people to serve in the kingdom. We may be less patient and charitable with others and their imperfections.