This second article on apologetics is another introductory one, as I want us to look at the way that Jesus dealt with the people He met. Jesus can teach us so much about how to communicate with people.
Therearethree passages that I want to draw lessons from. They will certainly help us to communicate but perhaps also to learn something about the people we are talking to. The first passage is certainly within that category.
Luke is the only writer to record the conversation going on between these two on the road to Emmaus. The circumstances are very interesting. They were talking about the things that had happened in Jerusalem. We can see that they were aware that Jesus was a great teacher and worker of miracles (v.19); they knew all about His death and indeed that it was the significant third day (vv.20-21); they were aware of an empty tomb (v.22); and they had received a message from the heavenly realms (v.23.). All these things we would say were of great encouragement and would certainly lead us to rejoice in the Lord. Nevertheless, they were sad.
Learning the lesson shown hear will help us greatly in our presentation to those in the cults. Simply because they have all the facts does not mean that they will believe. Indeed, they may have the exact same facts as we have and yet draw the opposite conclusion. Here instead of rejoicing over the empty tomb they were sad about it. But why is this?
I believe the answer is in verse 21 – they had put their ‘own spin’ on the events. Instead of taking them at face value, they would only look at them within the context of their own expectations. Cult members and indeed non Christians in general, have their own way of looking at events and we should not be surprised if they believe the opposite to us over any particular Scripture or set of Biblical events.
Notice too that even when Jesus showed from Scripture that these things had to happen (vv.26-27) they were still sad and moving away from Jerusalem. What are we saying? That apologetics are not enough? – that is correct! We need apologetics to be able to present the clear picture from Scripture as Jesus did, to provide the framework that can help the listener understand. We need to make that reasoned defence as to why what we believe is true and is a better explanation or understanding than theirs. However without a further ingredient this will not be sufficient.
Just as bread will never rise without yeast and the best looking new car is useless without fuel apologetics will go nowhere without the work of the Holy Spirit within the life of the person listening. The two on the road to Emmaus only realised the significance of the burning within their hearts when they saw who Jesus was (vv.31-33) and they only fully understood what He had said to them when He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (v.45.)
Apologetics are the framework, the scaffolding if you like, and is very important, but we must never rely totally on good presentation and ignore the intercession that the Lord would open the hearts and the minds of those we are talking too. He alone can reveal who He truly is to a person and He alone can give understanding of the Scriptures that goes far beyond the natural mind.
From our second passage, I want to simply make a few bullet points.
1. v.25 – Jesus knew He was being put to the test but He did not react in a negative way. We will be put to the test by many people but we should learn to use it positively.
2. v.26 – There was no accusation or rebuke but a question that took the hearer to the heart and root of the matter. Learn to ask questions and not make accusations. Learn to allow the person to, as often as possible, answer his or her own queries and don’t be too ready to show off your superior knowledge!
3. v.29 – People will want to justify themselves and often, as here, will use something that is secondary. The main point was to love God but taking up the secondary point of loving the neighbour, the listener tries to deflect the power and truth of the answer just given. Be ready for this attitude and tactic, which at times is not deliberate but simply an automatic natural reaction.
4. v.30 – Jesus deals with this by telling a parable that not only answers the secondary question but brings the enquirer back face to face with the central issue. Learn a reservoir of ‘parables’ that can be used in specific instances and for certain subjects and that do what Jesus did here.
The final passage I want to draw some lessons from is one I often speak about,
This is probably one of the best illustrations of how Jesus communicated with people. If we were looking at this solely from the cult point of view, it is also a great illustration of how Jesus dealt with someone in a cult.
The Samaritans had taken the pure Jewish tradition and added their own ‘cultish’ twist, to such an extent that the Jews would not even talk with the Samaritans.
This woman was also a sinner in great need who had no idea of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ when she began talking with Jesus but by the end she understood clearly enough to be able to go and tell others. What had happened and how did Jesus communicate?
vv.6&7 – a true servant is always ready. Jesus made no excuses to ignore the woman although He had the perfect one, that Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. The woman knowing this was puzzled. Jesus makes Himself vulnerable to the woman by asking her for a drink of water. He relates lovingly to her as a human being not accusing her as an adulteress.
vv.10 – 14 – Jesus does not even begin by talking about the woman but he talks about Himself. He shows her that what He has is far better than what she has.
v.15 – This leads the woman to want what Jesus has rather than being forced away
vv.16-18 – Jesus still has to deal with what is wrong in the woman’s life but He does it in such a loving way. He begins with a question not an accusation. We can learn much from this – it is far better to ask a question of the cult member that will cause them to open up and think rather than accuse them which will cause them to clam up.
v.19 – Jesus is prepared to talk at her level.
v.29 – She knows that something is different. She is not absolutely sure what it is but now there is a big ‘question mark’ in her life.
Build bridges not brick walls
Show them you have something better than they do but not with a ‘holier than thou’ attitude
Ask questions instead of making accusations
Sow doubt and share the real Jesus
Future articles will, we hope, help you put many if not all of these points into practice as we look at a number of specific issues that we can face in the presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.