Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Intercepting Transmission

Over the years I've heard a number of people (myself included) talk about how Jesus' disciples never really got his "real message" and we've been misinterpreting it (in various ways) ever since.

But doesn't this raise the obvious question: Does this say more about Jesus than the disciples? (i.e. isn't this saying he wasn't a very good teacher?)



gratefulbear said...

Good question! However, upon reflection, I think it really has more to do with the willingness or unwillingness of the students to receive what's being taught. The best teacher in the world can teach a dozen students, and each will hear the teaching in a different way. Maybe the parable of the sower and the different types of seeds was Jesus' way of acknowledging that not everyone will hear his words the same way.

isaiah said...

I think it means they and we probably weren't very good listeners.... after all, they witness the miracles- and we can to if we open our eyes and ears:)

You already know my take: What Jesus taught was in order, what was learned- what we are still in the process of learning- in divine order too!

I like Darrell's take as well.

Andrew said...


1. I know that when I try to talk about the numinous, what usually comes out doesn't even begin to match my experience. It's a poor approximation at very, very best. If words begin to fall short at my low level of spiritual awareness, how much more potential for this would there be for a teacher as fully realized as Jesus!

2. To approach it from a more intellectual standpoint: if you've read any of Ken Wilber's stuff about lines of development, you'll know that just because someone is extremely advanced spiritually, as Jesus certainly was, it doesn't necessarily follow that they're equally advanced in other areas: cognitive, moral, social, physical, artistic, etc. Therefore, yeah, it's entirely possible that Jesus could have been a crappy teacher.

3. But it seems to me more likely that Jesus simply realized he couldn't be all things to all people: he could have gathered a tiny group of devotees and taught them everything in great depth; instead, he chose to focus primarily on teaching to the multitudes, spreading his teachings as widely as possible in confidence that, to go back to Darrell's reference of the parable of the sower, some of the seed would fall into soil that was ready for it and would grow. He couldn't do both; he only had one life (in a sense). So we have the parables and the miracles, which have an immediate universal appeal, as well as profound spiritual meaning for those "with ears to hear", as well as all kinds of potential for misinterpretation.

kev said...

it isn't very difficult to understand "love God, love each other, & love yourself [i.e. love & enjoy being alive, etc]" - seems to be more of a challenge to do such a simple task. to me, it isn't that i don't get a kick out of delving deeper into working out the meanings of the Christ's message; but the wonder and simplicity of it all is enough. in the end, the purity of a child's faith seemed to matter most.

however, seems as though there's a fine balance [love that word] between childlike wonder and the deeper search that might be found....
proverbs 25:2 "God delights in concealing things; scientists delight in discovering things." [msg]

i'm sure God delights in spiritual bloggers & their blogs!

anonymous julie said...

"He who has ears, let him hear."

... and I think Jesus went deliberately with vague words. A couple Gospel writers mentioned that he spelled things out better to the disciples in secret... This comes in part out of my own experience (and a couple bad ones)... It's important to consider one's audience... the experiences they bring to translating your words into something that is meaningful to them... some stuff would blow people's minds, or be entirely misunderstood... or just denied. I think that's what Paul meant about "Be all things to all men" - easier to do on an individual basis than when a couple thousand people are hanging out listening to you talk, at that point there are three options: speak clearly, speak in riddles, or dumb it down. #1 is a bad idea, obviously. #3 would disgust the people capable of understanding more, and maybe turn them away. #2... seems to be the only one left. Unless I missed #4?

Jon said...

Trev, Trev, Trev, who posts where angels fear to tread!

I remember thinking about this question a few years ago. It seems that whoever saw Reality and described it in a fresh way in ancient times could not help but inadvertently found a religion, whether they intended it or not. The Buddha founded an order of thousands of monks and nuns, Jesus commissioned a few disciples to spread the Good News. Lao Tzu wrote a book and called it quits.

In both cases, teachers eventually must shed control and trust those who come after.

Was one better than the other in communicating? I don't think so. The East has just as bloody a history as the West. (There was tremendous bloodshed over the centuries in China when different Emperors decided at various times to endorse Taoism over Buddhism or vice versa.) Let alone class systems, caste system, military dictatorships, revolutions, and on and on.

Jesus hit on the novel solution of indwelling those who call upon him. Unfortunately those who do, rarely ask him to lead them on in anything other than petty personal decisions (should I buy the F-150 or the Ranger?) and let the belief system handle "spiritual growth" for them.

Larry said...

I come down with Kev on this post.
Just do it is all that really matters. The intellectual stuff is nice for us speculative types, but more of a pastime than a Way.

I'm gifted, blessed, cursed with an overactive intuitive function. I see a thousand angles to every problem. Lucky for me Ellie is a much more deliberate type who goes straight to the problem and solves it. It's like the tortoise and the hare; she usually comes out ahead in the end.

Let's have all the fun we want, but also just do it.