This latest entry for Our Daily Journey was inspired by a line in a student’s paper. This isn’t due for another month, so if you see something, say something. Thanks!

It hurts to be misunderstood, especially when we are trying our best to love. We go the extra mile to help, and our coworker suspects we have an ulterior motive. We share some hard truth, as kindly as we can, and our friend responds by shutting us out of her life. We hold a child accountable, and he pouts and cries, “I hate you!”

If you are tired of being misunderstood, take heart. History’s greatest act of love was misunderstood at the time. No one who saw Jesus on the cross thought his death was an act of love. His enemies believed he was a blasphemer or at least a rebel who was getting what he deserved. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself!” (Matthew 27:42). Passersby assumed Jesus was merely another martyr in a long line of failed revolutionaries. Even his disciples—including his own mother—didn’t understand what Jesus was doing on the cross. They knew he was a tragic victim, but they didn’t imagine he was dying for them. No one standing at the foot of the cross guessed what was really going on.

It makes sense that great acts of love are often misunderstood at the time, because the misunderstanding is part of what makes their sacrifice great. Our love is more heroic when we fiercely love a person who does not understand or worse, misinterprets our love as hate.

But one day all will be revealed. As Jesus explained his death to the disciples on the road to Emmaus—“Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?”—so finally Jesus “will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due” (1 Corinthians 4:5).

Don’t stop loving, especially if you are misunderstood. The agony you suffer now will be the evidence God uses to prove your love was great.

Photo by Waiting for the Word. Via Flickr. Used by permission.



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7 responses to “misunderstood”

  1. Elden Stielstra

    Amen, brother. No wonder you are the professor and I the student.

  2. Elizabeth Ann Davidhizar

    I think one person did understand that His death on the cross was an act of love. As I study Mark, I see that all the disciples failed, the crowd failed, the religious leaders failed, and the Roman system failed to see. No one could understand that His path was the path of death, burial and resurrection…even though He clearly stated it at least four times. For them, the pathway for a Messiah was through power. I think that there is one person who understood the path of the cross and that was the woman who annointed Jesus in Mark 14. She annointed His body beforehand for burial…the only one who saw before that the cross as an act of love. I wonder if this is why Jesus said that whereever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole worle, what she has done will be told in memory of her? She alone in Mark seemed to understand the gospel of the cross. As often as I get a chance to speak, I try to mention or talk about the gospel belief of this woman…in memory of her.

  3. mikewittmer

    Thank you for this insight, Betsy. I need to look at her. I wonder how much she understood, and how much is Mark’s interpretation of what she did. It certainly is worth a look.

  4. Elden Stielstra

    Calvin’s commentary on this story (Matt.26:9, Mark 14:10,) seems to be a lesson from our Lord on standing firm in our faith. “Relying on this testimony, let us learn to set little value on any reports concerning us that are spread abroad in the wicked world, provided we know that what men condemn God approves.” And, “…that what is reckoned bad on earth is pronounced to be good in heaven.” If we are to trust Calvin, I feel we must be careful not to read too much into these verses. If I am reading Calvin correctly, Jesus is not telling us this story so we would see that this woman fully understands his mission, but that God might just see things a little differently than we do; so, go forth on faith and follow the Spirit’s leading no matter the cost as we will someday understand. The key, here, for Calvin, I believe, is a lesson on faith and not the nature or mission of Christ as Messiah. It would be a stretch to say what Mary thought would be perfume for the burial and his physical body would some day, as Messiah, “perfume” the whole world (Christ’s resurrection) as Calvin wrote on John 12:7.

  5. Elizabeth Ann Davidhizar

    As I reflected on what I wrote, I realized that based on my study concerning this woman, I am stating things that I have not seen in commentaries. That’s probably a dangerous place to be…if no one else has seen this…what are the chances that I should interpret that from this passage? However, as I study the context of Mark, Jesus’ predictions of His death/burial/resurrection are misunderstood completely by His disciples. Each time He discusses it, they come back with a question about power or position or (in Peter’s case) even forbidding it. I am just mystified as to Jesus’ words concerning her humble act of forward-looking faith…”she annointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, whereever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:8-9). Isn’t it possible that by her forward act of faith, she exemplifies/proclaims the gospel…that is: that the pathway to power is in the humility and unimaginable act of death, burial and resurrection? To me, this woman’s act exemplifies/pictures the gospel message….Jesus had proclaimed it a number of times in Mark and no one understood it. I think she did.

  6. mikewittmer

    Betsy, I read the passage this morning, in Greek, because I know you would! 🙂 I think there is room for differing interpretations of any story, that is the nature of narratives–they are open-ended. I think it is possible that she knew that Jesus was saving the world by dying on the cross, but I don’t think it was probable. I am not sure that you think so either, at least you haven’t explicitly said so.

    One other important thought. I think we agree that the gospel is more than merely “the pathway to power is in the humility and unimaginable act of death, burial, and resurrection.” Many people besides Jesus have lost in order to win, but none have supplied the good news that saves the world. The heart of the gospel is Jesus’ atonement for sin. I know you believe this. I just wanted to explicitly say that because it can’t be assumed always in evangelical circles.

  7. Elizabeth Ann Davidhizar

    Sorry for the delay in the response. I just wanted to make sure that you considered your statement that “no one could understand that His death was an act of love”. I stand by my statement that the woman in Mark 14 understood the He was going to die and that her understanding was deeper than anyone in Mark. Especially if this woman is the same woman (Mary, John 12) who had experienced her brother’s death, burial and resurrection already!

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