If Jesus was modeling evangelism in the Gospel of John He was emphasizing the art of communication in chapter 9. He heals a man born blind in the chapter and demonstrates a very novel approach to evangelism when He did.
Culturally, those with disabilities were considered pariahs.
We know better today but in Bible times disabilities were considered evidence of God’s judgment. That’s been the attitude through most of history. It is only recently that things have changed.
But, in New Testament days, and for a long time since, if a person was blind, lame, deaf, dumb, leprous or inflicted with any other malady they were looked down on spiritually not too mention abused. They received no education. Braille wasn’t even developed until 1821 and, incidentally, was developed by a blind man. The disabled were born to beg and in most cases were blamed by close relatives for bringing a bad name on the family.
The disciples voiced the mindset well.
Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? (verse 2)
Jesus gave them an answer they didn’t expect.
Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. (verse 3)
His answer not only exonerated the man and his parents from sin it elevated them to a special place in God’s plan. He did not explain His answer and the disciples probably did not understand immediately, although Peter did boldly minister to a lame man in Acts 3, very much out of character for people of that day.
Communication for Jesus started with, “I understand you.”
But, what Jesus does next is even more surprising. He spits on the ground, makes a bit of mud and then smeared the mud over the eyes of the blind man. Starved for positive attention the blind man allows it. Most people would avoid any probing in their eyes but for this man it was very different to the pushing, pulling and badgering he normally received.
This was Jesus at His best. He wasn’t being mystical. He was connecting with this disabled in way that said “I understand you, care about you and I’m not offended or afraid of your condition” and the man would have understood this. He didn’t just touch the man, He touched his eyes and mud, though it has little medicinal value, would have felt like ointment, a very common form of treatment in those days.
And He did all that without being condescending. He told the man to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. The condescending approach would have been to take him. None of these actions conveyed the Gospel but they did prepare the man for the presentation of salvation truth later in the story (John 9:36-38).
This man knew less about Jesus and the Gospel than anyone and in the end was more willing to believe than everyone. And it all started with the ability of Jesus to connect with him on a personal level, the real art of communication.
The truth is, as an evangelist Jesus was an amazing communicator. He didn’t just talk to people. He didn’t just listen to people. He connected with people and He used many more tools than just words.
We define communication as the ability to help others understand “us.” We think we have communicated well when people say “I see what you mean, recognize how you feel and agree with what you think.”
For Jesus that was not communication.
- He never tried to make Himself understood.
- He didn’t go into lengthy explanations about the statements He made.
- He never argued His point or debated the issues or defended His statements.
He made statements and acted as if any and every person could understand it clearly. Jesus respected the intelligence of the people to whom He spoke. He also allowed them space and time to process the truths He presented. Before getting into the meat of the Gospel He often did things that were helpful and useful on a human level.
- He touched the man’s eyes.
- He raised the woman’s dead son.
- He healed Peter’s mother-in-law.
All of these people needed the Gospel but were ministered to in non-spiritual ways before receiving it. We, on the other hand, make a spiritual point first and then argue endlessly in defense of that point.
Jesus never did that.
A point well made speaks for itself and the more you try to prove it the weaker it becomes. It also destroys any possible hearing you might have otherwise had. The more you try to prove your point the less likely others are to be open to you or the Gospel. Winning debates is not a good way to attract listeners.
The intent of communication for Jesus was connection. He was trying to transform people not give them information. He never won or lost arguments because He never engaged them.
Jesus spoke His truth plainly and boldly and then looked around for people with whom He could connect and this chapter is a very good example of this strategy.
If we couldn’t talk, however, we wouldn’t be able to communicate. We walk into every situation mouth first. To prove this point I challenge any person to take a full day and attempt to communicate without using words (spoken or written). Let someone know you are interested in them, respect them, understand and even accept them without using words. The person who can do that well is getting close to the methodology of Jesus.
Jesus never uttered the words “I understand” but He communicated that thought often. Do you? Can you?
What do you THINK!AboutIt?