WHY WAS THE GOSPEL HIDDEN FROM THE DISCIPLES?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, March 24, 2002


"And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken" (Luke 18:34).

I have struggled with the material in this sermon for many years, and have actually worked on this sermon for about eight years before preaching it today.  The concept in it is controversial.  I offer it as a possibility, and certainly as an illustration, of the need for each person to have a genuine conversion experience.  As a dispensationalist, I present these thoughts for your consideration.

What was it that was hidden from the Disciples? It was the very gospel itself! Christ told them plainly,

"Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again" (Luke 18:31-33).

I. They did not understand the gospel.

That is the first thing we must understand. Christ preached the gospel to them and they did not understand Him or believe what He preached.

"And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken" (Luke 18:34).

It is quite clear from verses 31-33 that it was the gospel that they did not understand. It was the gospel that was hid from them. It was the gospel that they did not know. Paul gives us the gospel very clearly in I Corinthians, chapter fifteen:

"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (I Corinthians 15:3-4).

This is the gospel, given repeatedly in the Bible. And this is the gospel that the twelve Disciples (cf. Luke 18:31) did not understand or believe (cf. Luke 18:34).

Why didn't the twelve Disciples understand or believe what Christ preached to them? I believe that the answer is given in II Corinthians, chapter four:

"But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world [Satan] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them"

(II Corinthians 4:3-4).

I can personally find no better explanation for the twelve Disciples being blind to the gospel when Christ preached it plainly to them than this. Satan, the "god of this world," had "blinded" their minds! "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost" (II Corinthians 4:3).

It is staggering to our minds to think that the Disciples were still unconverted after being with Christ for nearly three years, but such seems to be the case when we take the Scripture at face value:

"And they understood none of these things [the gospel]: and this saying [of the gospel] was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken [the gospel]" (Luke 18:34).

I conclude that all twelve of them were blinded to the truth of the gospel by Satan (cf. II Corinthians 4:3-4). This much is certain, if you have never been converted, you are as blind concerning the gospel of Christ as they were. You will never be able to understand the death of Christ for your sins until you are converted. You will never see the need for Jesus dying in your place on the Cross and rising physically to give you life until you are converted!

"And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken" (Luke 18:34).

That was exactly my case before I was converted. I went to church. I memorized verses of Scripture. I even acted in a Passion Play at Easter time. I knew all about the facts of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, but none of it was real to me. My case was exactly like that of the twelve Disciples - before I was converted. How about you?

So, we see first, that they did not understand the gospel. It was hidden from them. They did not experience the reality of it.

II. They did not understand the gospel even though they heard it preached many times.

"And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken" (Luke 18:34).

We must be aware of the fact that they did not understand the gospel even though they had heard it preached many times. It is a real "eye-opener" to see how many times the Disciples had heard the gospel without understanding it. Although there are others, I will list a few of the times they had clearly heard Christ preach the gospel without understanding or believing it:

"And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it. For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him" (Mark 9:30-32).

Christ clearly preached the gospel of His death, burial and resurrection to them. Clearly, "they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him."

There are lost people here this morning who do not understand why Christ died on the Cross. You do not understand why He arose physically from the dead. Yet, like the Disciples, you are afraid to come and ask us about these great Bible truths.

Then, in the seventeenth chapter of Matthew, we read:

"And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry" (Matthew 17:22-23).

In preaching the gospel this time, Jesus told the Disciples that He would "be betrayed." This was an added detail, along with a clear presentation of His death and resurrection from the dead. What was their reaction? "They were exceeding sorry" (Matthew 17:23).

Many people are "exceeding sorry" when they hear of the death of Christ at Easter time. The terrible death of Jesus makes them sad, as it did the Disciples. But being sad over the crucifixion of Jesus does not mean that you are converted yet.

"And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken" (Luke 18:34).

After Christ was transfigured before them, and then cast a demon out of a young person, Jesus again preached the gospel to the Disciples. He said:

"Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men. But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying"

(Luke 9:44-45).

Peter, James and John had heard God's voice, on the Mount of Transfiguration, say, "This is my beloved Son: hear him" (Luke 9:35), but they did not understand the gospel that He preached to them shortly afterwards. "It was hidden from them, that they perceived it not" (Luke 9:45).

You may believe that Jesus is God's beloved Son without understanding the gospel and being converted. I myself believed that Christ was the Son of God for years before I obeyed the gospel and was converted. Is that also the case with you this morning?

Again, we are told that Jesus made plain the fact that He was going to Jerusalem to die and rise from the dead:

"From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day" (Matthew 16:21).

This verse shows us that Jesus "began" to clearly show them that the gospel of His death and resurrection would happen in Jerusalem. That was a clear statement. But Peter actually rebuked Christ for preaching the gospel to him so plainly!

"Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee"

(Matthew 16:22).

Without going into more detail, I will simply say that Peter actually rebuked Jesus for plainly preaching the gospel.

I know, by years of experience in preaching, that gospel preaching often brings rebukes. A preacher who sticks to the gospel, as Jesus did, will often be rebuked by those who are unconverted.

"And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken" (Luke 18:34).

I have had people rebuke me, people who said, "Hymers never preaches anything but the gospel. He isn't a pastor. Hymers is only an evangelist." Those were the exact words of one person who rebuked me. But the servant is not greater than the Lord. If Jesus preached the gospel so often, so must a faithful pastor, whether he is rebuked for doing so or not.

Now, turn with me to Matthew, chapter twenty, and we will read together another time that Jesus preached the gospel to the twelve Disciples. Look at verse seventeen:

"And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again" (Matthew 20:17-19).

How careful Jesus was to preach the gospel over and over to His Disciples. Yet it is clear that they still did not understand Him, though His preaching was very plain. Judas went and betrayed Him because he had not been converted by Christ's preaching of the gospel. The others remained blind to the message of Christ as well.

The last passage of Scripture we will give on this subject (though there are others) is the one which tells us what Jesus preached at the Last Supper:

"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:26-28).

In breaking the bread, He showed them how His body would be broken on the Cross, as He had told them many times in the past. In drinking the cup, He showed them how His Blood would be shed "for the remission of sins." The Lord's Supper was an object lesson - to show them the gospel, which they still did not believe or understand.

Judas went out from the upper room to betray Him. Peter went out to deny Him. "Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled" (Matthew 26:56). What a picture! What an illustration! And all of these things happen over and over to people who hear the gospel without understanding it or believing it! Some of you will betray Jesus. Some of you will deny Jesus. Some of you will forsake Him and flee - unless you believe the gospel and are converted. Jesus said:

"Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3).

It should be remembered that Jesus said this directly to the Disciples (Matthew 18:1).

And if the Disciples had to be converted, as Christ told them in Matthew 18:3, don't you think that you have to be converted also? It is not possible to read Matthew 18:1-3 without seeing that Christ told the Disciples that they had to be converted.

"At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them [the disciples], And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:1-3).

If they had to be converted to enter the kingdom of Heaven, so must you. Are you converted? Or can it still be said of you,

"And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken" (Luke 18:34).

We have seen two things about the Disciples so far:

1. First, they did not understand the gospel.

2. Second, they did not understand the gospel even though they heard it preached many times.

III. They did not understand the gospel because their eyes had not
been opened - they had not yet received the converting work
of the Holy Spirit of God.

Doubting Thomas only came to believe the gospel when he was directly confronted with the risen Christ (cf. John 20:24-29). The other Disciples had encountered the risen Christ a little earlier, and were converted.

Have you had a direct encounter with Christ? This is what happened to Mary Magdalene also (cf. John 20:16). This happened to those Disciples on the road to Emmaus:

"And their eyes were opened, and they knew him"

(Luke 24:31).

Have your eyes been opened? Do you know Jesus Christ personally? Are you converted?

Dr. John R. Rice gives this excellent and spiritual explanation:

As Jesus was filled with the Spirit when He was baptized and praying, so the disciples must have the same Holy Spirit. Note here [in John 20:22] that "he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost." No doubt this has in mind the dispensational change, that now the Holy Spirit is to live within their bodies. That is what the Lord had foretold about the Holy Spirit, "For he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (John 14:17)…on the day of the resurrection He came into their bodies…every Christian in the world, from the time of conversion, has the Holy Spirit abiding in his body. This is the plain teaching of I Corinthians 6:19, 20 and Romans 8:9 (Dr. John R. Rice, The Son of God: A Verse-by-verse Commentary on the Gospel According to John, Sword of the Lord, 1976, p. 396).

Will you go on in a blinded, lost state, or will you be converted? Will you let the Holy Spirit convict you of sin?

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me…" (John 16:8-9).

Will you let God draw you to Jesus Christ, so that Christ can forgive your sins and convert you? Jesus said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44). Will you come to see the tremendous necessity of Christ dying to pay for your sins on the Cross? Will you be literally washed from your sins by the Blood of Christ? (cf. Revelation 1:5). Or when you hear the preaching of the gospel, will you go on like the gospel-blinded Disciples?

"And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken" (Luke 18:34).

Will you come to Jesus? Will you receive Him now?

Why not now? Why not now?
Why not come to Jesus now?

In the world you've failed to find Aught of peace for troubled mind,
Come to Christ, on Him believe, Peace and joy you shall receive.
Why not now? Why not now? Why not come to Jesus now?
Why not now? Why not now? Why not come to Jesus now?

("Why Not Now?" by Daniel W. Whittle, 1840-1901).


(END OF SERMON)


Scripture Read Before the Sermon: Luke 18:31-34.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Oh, What a Fountain" by Dr. John R. Rice (1895-1980).

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."



THE OUTLINE OF

WHY WAS THE GOSPEL HIDDEN FROM THE DISCIPLES?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken" (Luke 18:34).

(Luke 18:31-33)

I.   They did not understand the gospel, I Corinthians 15:3-4;
II Corinthians 4:3-4.

II.  They did not understand the gospel even though they
heard it preached many times, Mark 9:30-32;
Matthew 17:22-23; Luke 9:44-45; Luke 9:35;
Matthew 16:21-22; Matthew 20:17-19;
Matthew 26:26-28; Matthew 26:56; Matthew 18:1-3.

III. They did not understand the gospel because their eyes
had not been opened - they had not yet received the
converting work of the Holy Spirit of God,
John 20:24-29; John 20:16; Luke 24:31; John 20:22;
John 14:17; I Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 8:9;
John 16:8-9; John 6:44; Revelation 1:5.