Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said:
Can you imagine what this was like being one of the earliest followers of Jesus? You got to be up close and personal. You were always on the front row because there was no one else. And then it started.
The number of people started to increase. And increase some more. And more. At first, it wasn’t too bad. If you showed up a little bit early, you could still get your normal, front row seat. But not now.
Now, there are so many people that you can’t get close. You can’t even move. You’re forced to be somewhere in the middle at best, towards the back at worst. It used to be easy to hear Jesus, you were right in front of him. But now, it’s harder to hear, harder to see. And forget about touching him like you used to.
But now, Jesus wisely moves onto a boat on the water. He’s just a little bit away from shore. This lets him be seen and heard by many, many more people. It’s a little further away, but you can hear him oh so much better
When Jesus taught, it wasn’t to impress anyone. It was to be understood. He certainly could have used the teaching technique of the day. It would have impressed the spiritually elite and well educated, but it would have bored the average person in the street to tears. When Jesus taught, people listened. His teaching had power. It had authority. It was obvious that God was speaking in and through Jesus.
And when Jesus taught, it made sense and sounded right. His teaching was a process, like building a brick wall. One layer after another, brick by brick, idea by idea, were laid down, side by side. It made not just interesting teaching, but it was strong teaching, able to change a heart, change a life.
Jesus didn’t make people just think of ideas in their heads. No, he taught in parables. Parables are stories with pictures, concrete illustrations that are put alongside of a truth to explain it. Jesus’ teaching simplicity was done for one reason. He desperately wanted people to understand. He was willing to do anything so the people following him could do more than just hear with their ears and heads. He wanted them to hear with their hearts and lives. He was aiming at changed lives.
Jesus understood his audience. He knew where they were coming from. He purposefully taught in a style that would be understood by the most number of people. He wasn’t focused on reaching the reached. Jesus wanted the people on the fringes. He wanted the people that had been disappointed and abused in life. He aimed at the large number of people that were on the outside looking in, not the few on the inside looking out.
He taught in such a way that it made him repeat himself. He used different stories and parables that went over and over the same ground. He didn’t teach it once and then say, “OK, I said it. Now you have to figure it out for yourselves.”
He taught many things, in many ways, to reach many people.
And yet, even with all his best efforts at teaching, with his stories and repetition, it fell on dull hearts. They “got it” but weren’t willing to do anything about it. Here they have the greatest teacher of all time, telling the greatest parables of all time, and the results are poor.
Yes, there were crowds. Great crowds of people. They followed. They soaked it in. But how many people were really transformed by the teaching? I think it was not all that many. The math was all wrong
Hard hearts +
Dull ears +
Unresponsive life =
It’s so easy to point the finger at them. What’s wrong with them? But we should ask ourselves the very same question. What’s wrong with us? Why don’t we get it? Why doesn’t listening to Jesus instantly make us into new people? It’s not about us, but about God doing a work in us.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
That should be our prayer in the morning, and all day long. It should be the desire of our heart, each and every waking moment of our life. It should be our life goal.
So, why not make it so?