“We have, lastly, in these verses, an example of the spiritual ignorance which may be found even in the hearts of good men.
We are told that our Lord said to His disciples, “The Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.”
They had heard the same thing from His lips little more than a week before. But now, as then, the words seemed lost upon them. They heard as though they heard not.
They could not realize the fact that their Master was to die. They could not realize the great truth that Christ was to be “cut off” before He was to reign, and that this cutting off was a literal death upon the cross.
It is written, “They understood not this saying,”—“it was hid from them,”—“they perceived it not.”
Such slowness of understanding may surprise us much at this period of the world. We are apt to forget the power of early habits of thought, and national prejudices, in the midst of which the disciples had been trained.
“The throne of David,” says a great divine, “did so fill their eyes that they could not see the cross.”
Above all, we forget the enormous difference between the position we occupy who know the history of the crucifixion and the Scriptures which it fulfilled, and the position of a believing Jew who lived before Christ died and the veil was rent in twain.
Whatever we may think of it, the ignorance of the disciples should teach us two useful lessons, which we shall all do well to learn.
For one thing, let us learn that men may understand spiritual things very feebly, and yet be true children of God. The head may be very dull when the heart is right.
Grace is far better than gifts, and faith than knowledge.
If a man has faith and grace enough to give up all for Christ’s sake, and to take up the cross and follow Him, he shall be saved in spite of much ignorance. Christ shall own him at the last day.
Finally, let us learn to bear with ignorance in others, and to deal patiently with beginners in religion. Let us not make men offenders for a word.
Let us not set our brother down as having no grace, because he does not exhibit clear knowledge.
Has he faith in Christ? Does he love Christ? These are the principal things.
If Jesus could endure so much weakness in His disciples, we may surely do likewise.”
–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 247-248. Ryle is commenting on Luke 9:37-45.