As Jesus observed the world around him and reached out in positive appreciation and love to the harassed multitudes, He then engaged in congruent relevant communication with them. His ability to appropriately say what was needed was a two-edged sword of incredible love on the one side as he told the prostitute, “Neither do I condemn you,” and “hard sayings” on the other as he challenged the complacent to think more deeply and to give up all and follow him. And don’t forget the “woes” of Matthew 23 in which he denounced the religious leaders with some choice words like “hypocrites,” “blind guides,” “whitewashed tombs” and “snakes!” Jesus did not mince words. Relevant communication for Him was definitely not mouthing nicey-nice platitudes, but piercing honesty. Reading the Gospels is a crash course in radically honest language!
Jesus didn’t come just to hang out and talk about local sports. He had an agenda. His topic was clear: “The kingdom of God has come near. It is here. It is within you.” The message Jesus brought was so radically different that he likened it to a totally new wine that must be contained in new wineskins. He asked people to “follow me,” to “seek first the kingdom of God,” to “pray to the Father” that His Kingdom would come “on earth as it is in heaven.” Constantly reiterating in His Sermon on the Mount, “you have heard, but I say this,” he challenged old traditions as He described the fulfilled but topsy-turvy ways in which life would be lived in the Kingdom, where the inside of the heart matters more than the outside of the cup, and the meek, the merciful and the poor in spirit are the blessed ones.
Jesus spoke strongly, with authority, and clearly; he got to the heart of things without a lot of rules, using parables about common things like a lost son, coin or sheep that kept people’s attention. Drawing on common endeavors, He reinterpreted every aspect of life, putting the implications of following Him in terms each person could understand:
- To fishermen, it meant leaving their boats and “fishing” for people.
- To Zacchaeus, it meant giving half his possessions to the poor and paying back those he cheated four times over.
- To Levi, it meant leaving his income-producing booth and traveling with someone who had “nowhere to lay his head,” using a new currency that paid a different return--“eternal life.”
- To those concerned about Roman occupation, it meant being a citizen of God’s Kingdom.
Relevant Communication is a two-way street that goes beyond words. Jesus spoke to people’s hearts. Using their life experiences as illustrations, He engaged in dialogue to answer their questions. But they did not always understand exactly what he meant, sometimes jumping to ridiculous conclusions like entering a second time into their mother’s womb, or wondering “Who will be greatest in the kingdom?” upon hearing Jesus talk about their "sitting on thrones at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne." James and John mistakenly vied for honored places on Jesus' right and left and, just before he went to the cross, the Greek believers asked, “Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" Although these awkward questions showed how much they failed to understand, the fact that he allowed them to be asked showed how safe they felt with him.