How much did the disciples and others really understand about the reason Jesus came to earth?
But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:7–8).
We have written about whether Mary knew what was to come for baby Jesus. There are many prophecies in the Old Testament foretelling the coming Messiah and the sacrifice to be made (Isaiah 53:8; Daniel 9:26), but did people recognize these prophecies and associate them with Jesus?
Scripture is clear that “none of the rulers of this age understood.” In fact, if they did realize, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” Jesus said: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19; cf. Matthew 20:17–18). Yet, people still did not understand this, as they thought this was referring to the physical temple (John 2:20–22).
When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, there was a big crowd of people shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13). They expected their Messiah to be their earthly king, but that was not the purpose of Jesus’ coming. Many of these same people likely shouted for crucifixion when Jesus was on trial a few days later.
Not even the disciples completely understood everything that was said and done until Jesus was glorified (John 12:16), although Jesus was preparing them for their future ministries. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would be sent to them so that they would recall all that was said after everything was accomplished (John 14:26).
The shepherds recognized that there was something special about Jesus, as they were “glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them” (Luke 2:20). They likely did not fully understand what was to come, but they took the angels at their word and spread the good news about Christ Jesus the Messiah.
Moreover, Simeon understood that Jesus was destined to affect many hearts and also indicated to Mary that her Son would suffer (Luke 2:34–35). Because no details were give, it is had to know whether Simeon or Mary fully understood what that meant.
God had a plan all along, even before Jesus was born. He knew people would not understand. There was a reason God’s wisdom remained hidden: God’s plan for Jesus Christ needed to come to pass before this mystery was to be revealed to everyone.
As we contemplate these things, we can pray and ask God to help us understand this mystery that has been revealed.