One of the wonderful things about Jesus is that He is a master teacher. He knows how to speak to every audience, and how to contextualize His communication to each individual. One of the wonderful things about the Scripture is that it too is also master teacher, for it demonstrates the way Jesus communicates His teaching points to others:
To His disciples, Jesus simply gives instruction. He knows He has their attention, and He knows they are there to learn. He can give them the goods without any lead up or prelude. So at the beginning of chapter 10, Matthew records, “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions.” Jesus then downloads a lengthy set of verbal dos and don’ts with specific mandates, warnings and encouragements. It is exactly what the disciples need before they are sent off.
To John’s disciples, Jesus points to the physical impact His ministry is making. He knows that they have some doubts and that to simply answer their question with a yes or no will not fully address the matter at hand. He also knows that to state the obvious would come across as condescending. They are well capable of coming to conclusions themselves. Indeed, they will need to do so in order to effectively overcome their doubts. So that the beginning of chapter 11, Matthew records, “When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see.”
While Jesus is speaking to John’s disciples, a crowd gathers. They had seen John’s disciples approaching Jesus and probably were just curious as to what the interaction between the two was going to be about. To Jesus, it is yet another opportunity to bring about the Kingdom of His Father. Best of all, that John’s disciples were just there becomes a teaching point.
Master teachers always use the immediately present circumstance as a teaching point! Master teachers also know that if they are going to bring a random crowd to a conclusion, they need to first bring their thoughts together. To this point masters use the vehicle of story to catch people’s attention. Matthew documents this, “As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet?”
Jesus gives the crowd a story. The story starts with a question about their personal experience in going out to see John years ago. It includes a point of sarcasm to inject some humor, and a point of wonder to set up the true meaning of the experience they’ve each had. One can see how He progresses quickly to the point He is going to make, but does so in a masterful way that disarms their objections and sets them up to learn while fully engaging them on Himself.
If we mean to have the impact God means for us to have as Christ-followers, we are wise to emulate His example.
Jesus used illustrative material constantly, but always with a serious message attached. He used stories, events, and other material effectively to draw attention to the truth He was enunciating to His hearers. And His point was seldom missed.Curtis C. Thomas
Jesus knew His time with the crowd was limited, so He chose a format and a tactic that allowed for maximum impact in the given time. Are we likewise so purposeful in our communications?