Have you ever wondered how Jesus would go about teaching were he placed in our contemporary culture? At first the idea of a first century itinerant preacher in an Ivy League classroom boggles the mind. Yet at 12 he did go to the sacred halls of academia of his day where he engaged the religious leaders in serious discussion. Luke 2:47 reports that “all who heard me were astonished at my understanding and the skill with which I answered their questions.” I suspect that he could handle a Harvard or Yale exposure as well.
However Jesus’ teaching ministry was not with the intelligentsia of his day but with the common people, those who would leave their workbench and go out with the crowd to some deserted location where they could hear his words of instruction. To teach these people Jesus used parables, short allegorical stories that illustrated a religious or moral lesson. And that is exactly how we learn similar truth today. We come to understand what we don’t know as it is illustrated by something we do know. We tell a growing child that the world is like a big rubber ball, that is, it is round. Jesus taught the kingdom of God by comparing it to seed planted in various kinds of soil: the richer the soil the more bountiful the growth. He described his teaching method so simply in Mark 4:2, “I taught them spiritual truths using simple stories from everyday life.”
Most people tend to think that the great truths of life are necessarily complex. The scientific world operates in a world of extreme complexity. And it does, but that complexity is essentially connected with what we don’t as yet know or what we are in the process of learning, not with the outcome of the scientific activity. Gravity is very easy scientific axiom to understand in its practical application, but whether it is best described by Einstein’s general theory of relativity or by Newton’s law of universal gravitation is still a question.
The truths that Jesus taught were those that genuinely matter, not only for today but for eternity. I don’t mean at all to downgrade the advances that are being made in areas such as pharmacological research, medicine, robotics, etc., but I am reminded as a believing Christian that there is an eternity. Truths that deal with matters of the spirit are more significant than those limited to time. You might say that’s a pie-in-the-sky perspective and I would have to agree that so it seems, but for the believer it is accepted as true. To be consistent we must direct our life by our most basic assumptions and beliefs. So I am glad that Jesus taught “spiritual truths using simple stories from everyday life” — that way I can understand.