. Jesus’ teaching was intentionally vague at times. It was intentionally confusing at times. People are still arguing over what Jesus meant. It is my conviction that Jesus did this on purpose. He could have made it clearer. He could have made it plainer. He could have made it where no one would ever be confused. He didn’t. Teach like Jesus.
Jesus disciples actually complained about this. In Matthew 13:10, we read, “The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’” Matthew 13:10 (NIV) The sense of it is, “We don’t understand these parables.” Jesus’ answer is even more puzzling:
He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.
Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.
This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’—Matthew 13:11-15 (NIV)
Taken at face value, here is what Jesus is saying: if I didn’t use parables, everyone might readily understand. If they understood, they might repent. Then, I would have to forgive them. I want to do that. So, I speak in parables.
There are some, I suppose, who are Calvinistic enough to think this is exactly what Jesus meant. But for many of the rest of us we are not sure. As one of my kids would say, “that just doesn’t sound very ‘Jesus-ical’ to me.” Indeed.
It is beyond the scope of this book to go into the depths of this passage. I simply want to point out that it is not all that clear. I believe Jesus was intentionally unclear. Teach like Jesus.
Effective Bible Teachers are clear, but not too clear. They intentionally leave some tension. They intentionally leave people arguing. Jesus did it all the time. In fact, they are still arguing.
There are not enough arguments in our Bible study groups. Do you disagree with me? Do you want to argue with me? Do you feel a certain energy in your soul that wants to speak up?
This is how we want people to feel when they listen to our teaching. We want them to want to raise their hand. Better, we want them to just blurt out because they can’t keep silent.
I’ve heard people teach predestination as if there were no tension—no opposing points of view. From the teacher’s viewpoint, it was all so simple. It’s not simple, and people should feel the tension.
I had someone say to me once, after I preached a message from Romans nine, “If you push that idea too far, you will end up embracing predestination.” Indeed. Predestination—the word is in the Book. R.C. Sproul calls it, “the doctrine everyone believes.” What he means is that the word is in the Book. If you are a Christian, you must believe something about predestination. You have to believe in predestination. It is in the Book. You may not believe what R.C. Sproul believes, but you have to believe something. It’s in the Book.
Want to know two magic words to enliven any Bible study group? Here they are: I disagree.
Walk into any sleepy Bible study group, listen to the discussion for a while, and then say these two words: “I disagree.” Now, we are about to have a conversation. It won’t be sleepy anymore.
I actually was a little stronger in a Bible study group recently. I turned to a man and said with a smile, “I think you’re wrong. And here’s why.” He listened. Everyone listened. When I was finished, he nodded his head in agreement. No one looked at their watches.
I think he was changed that day. Just a bit. He was transformed by the renewing of his mind because someone confronted him. Someone said, “I disagree.”
Jesus disagreed with people all the time. And they disagreed with him. And when they listened to Jesus, they disagreed with each other. They still disagree. Teach like Jesus.
Effective Bible Teachers have a little tension in their teaching. There is something about their teaching that makes you want to speak up. It makes you want to raise your hand. It makes you want to add your two cents’ worth. It makes you want to correct them just a bit.
I’ll bet you want to correct me right now. Am I right?