1, 2. (a) Why did the officers who were sent to lay hold of Jesus return empty-handed? (b) Why was Jesus an outstanding teacher?
THE Pharisees are filled with anger. Jesus is in the temple, teaching about his Father. Those listening are divided; many put faith in Jesus, while others want him arrested. Unable to contain their anger, the religious leaders dispatch officers to lay hold of Jesus. The officers, however, come back empty-handed. The chief priests and Pharisees demand an explanation: “Why is it you did not bring him in?” The officers reply: “Never has another man spoken like this.” They were so impressed with Jesus’ teaching that they could not bring themselves to arrest him.*—John 7:45, 46.
2 Those officers were not the only ones impressed with Jesus’ teaching. People assembled in great numbers just to hear him teach. (Mark 3:7, 9; 4:1; Luke 5:1-3) Why was Jesus such an outstanding teacher? As we saw in Chapter 8, he loved the truths he conveyed, and he loved the people he taught. He also had a masterful grasp of teaching methods. Let us consider three of the effective methods he used and how we can imitate them.
Keeping It Simple
3, 4. (a) Why did Jesus use plain language in his teaching? (b) How is the Sermon on the Mount an example of the simplicity with which Jesus taught?
3 Can you imagine the range of vocabulary that Jesus could have had at his disposal? Yet, when he taught, he never spoke over the heads of his audience, many of whom were “unlettered and ordinary.” (Acts 4:13) He was considerate of their limitations, never overwhelming them with too much information. (John 16:12) His words were simple, but the truths they conveyed were nothing less than profound.
4 Take, for example, the Sermon on the Mount, recorded at Matthew 5:3–7:27. Jesus gave counsel in this sermon that goes deep, getting to the very heart of matters. There are no complicated ideas or phrases. Why, there is hardly a word that even a young child cannot readily grasp! No wonder, then, that when Jesus finished, the crowds—likely including many farmers, shepherds, and fishermen—“were astounded at his way of teaching.”—Matthew 7:28.
5. Give examples of sayings uttered by Jesus that were simple but rich in meaning.
5 In his teaching, Jesus often used simple, short phrases and uttered sayings that were rich in meaning. In an era long before printed books, he thus implanted his message indelibly in the minds and hearts of his listeners. Consider some examples: “Stop judging that you may not be judged.” “Persons in health do not need a physician, but the ailing do.” “The spirit . . . is eager, but the flesh is weak.” “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”* (Matthew 7:1; 9:12; 26:41; Mark 12:17; Acts 20:35) Nearly 2,000 years after they were first spoken, those sayings are as memorable as ever.
6, 7. (a) To teach with simplicity, why is it important that we use plain language? (b) How can we avoid overwhelming a Bible student with too much information?
6 How can we teach with simplicity? One important requirement is that we use plain language that most people can readily grasp. The basic truths of God’s Word are not complicated. Jehovah has revealed his purposes to those who have sincere and humble hearts. (1 Corinthians 1:26-28) Simple words carefully chosen can effectively convey the truths of God’s Word.
7 To teach with simplicity, we must be careful to avoid overwhelming a Bible student with too much information. Thus, when conducting a Bible study, we do not need to explain every detail; nor is it necessary to rush through the material as if covering a set amount of pages is of primary importance. Rather, it is wise to let the student’s needs and abilities determine the pace of the study. Our goal is to help the student to become a follower of Christ and a worshipper of Jehovah. To that end, we need to take whatever time is necessary for the student to get a reasonable grasp of what he is learning. Only then will Bible truth touch his heart and move him to apply what he has learned.—Romans 12:2.
Asking the Right Questions
8, 9. (a) Why did Jesus ask questions? (b) How did Jesus use questions to help Peter reach the right conclusion on the matter of paying the temple tax?
8 Jesus made remarkable use of questions, even when it would have taken less time just to tell his listener the point. Why, then, did he ask questions? At times, he used penetrating questions to expose the motives of his opposers, thereby silencing them. (Matthew 21:23-27; 22:41-46) In many cases, however, he used questions to get his disciples to express what was on their minds and to stimulate and train their thinking. Hence, he asked such questions as, “What do you think?” and “Do you believe this?” (Matthew 18:12; John 11:26) With his questions, Jesus reached and touched the hearts of his disciples. Consider an example.
9 On one occasion, tax collectors asked Peter if Jesus paid the temple tax.* Peter immediately answered, “Yes.” Later, Jesus reasoned with him: “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth receive duties or head tax? From their sons or from the strangers?” Peter responded: “From the strangers.” Jesus said: “Really, then, the sons are tax-free.” (Matthew 17:24-27) The point of the questions was no doubt obvious to Peter, for the family members of kings were known to be tax-exempt. Therefore, as the only-begotten Son of the heavenly King who was worshipped at the temple, Jesus was not under obligation to pay the tax. Note that rather than just telling Peter the right answer, Jesus tactfully used questions to help Peter reach the right conclusion and perhaps see the need to think more carefully before answering in the future.
10. How can we make effective use of questions when preaching from house to house?
10 How can we make effective use of questions in our ministry? When preaching from house to house, we can use questions to arouse interest, perhaps opening the way for us to share the good news. For example, if an older person comes to the door, we might respectfully bring up the question, “How has the world changed in your lifetime?” After allowing for a response, we might then ask, “What do you think it would take to make this world a better place in which to live?” (Matthew 6:9, 10) If a mother with small children answers the door, we could ask, “Have you ever wondered what this world will be like when your children grow up?” (Psalm 37:10, 11) By being observant when we approach a house, we may be able to choose a question that is tailored to the interests of the householder.
11. How can we put questions to good use when conducting a Bible study?
11 How can we put questions to good use when conducting a Bible study? Carefully chosen questions can help us to draw out the feelings of the student’s heart. (Proverbs 20:5) For example, suppose we are studying the chapter “Living in a Way That Pleases God” in the book What Does the Bible Really Teach?* The chapter discusses God’s view of such matters as sexual immorality, drunkenness, and lying. The student’s answers may indicate that he understands what the Bible teaches, but does he agree with what he is learning? We might ask, “Does God’s view of such matters seem reasonable to you?” We might also ask, “How can you apply this information in your life?” Keep in mind, though, the need to be tactful, according the student dignity. We never want to ask questions that needlessly embarrass him.—Proverbs 12:18.
Employing Powerful Logic
12-14. (a) In what ways did Jesus use his ability to employ logical reasoning? (b) What powerful logic did Jesus use when the Pharisees attributed his power to Satan?
12 With his perfect mind, Jesus was a master at reasoning with others. At times, he employed powerful logic to refute the false charges of his opposers. In many instances, he used persuasive reasoning to teach his followers valuable lessons. Let us look at some examples.
13 After Jesus healed a demon-possessed man who was blind and unable to speak, the Pharisees charged: “This fellow does not expel the demons except by means of Beelzebub [Satan], the ruler of the demons.” They conceded that superhuman power was needed to expel the demons. However, they attributed Jesus’ power to Satan. The charge was not only false but also illogical. Exposing the error of their thinking, Jesus replied: “Every kingdom divided against itself comes to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. In the same way, if Satan expels Satan, he has become divided against himself; how, then, will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:22-26) Jesus was, in effect, saying: “If I were an agent of Satan, undoing what Satan did, then Satan would be working against his own interests and would soon fall.” How could they refute such convincing logic?
14 Jesus had not yet finished reasoning with them. Knowing that some of the Pharisees’ own disciples had cast out demons, he asked a simple but powerful question: “If I expel the demons by means of Beelzebub, by means of whom do your sons [or, disciples] expel them?” (Matthew 12:27) Jesus’ argument, in a sense, was this: “If I expel demons by means of the power of Satan, then your own disciples must be using this same power.” What could the Pharisees say? They would never acknowledge that their disciples acted under Satan’s power. Jesus thus pressed their faulty reasoning to what was for them a very uncomfortable conclusion. Is it not thrilling just to read about how Jesus reasoned with them? Imagine, though, the crowds who heard Jesus firsthand, for his presence and the tone of his voice no doubt increased the force of his words.
15-17. Relate an example of how Jesus used a “how much more so” line of reasoning to teach heartwarming truths about his Father.
15 Jesus also used logical, persuasive reasoning to teach positive, heartwarming truths about his Father. He often did so by employing a “how much more so” line of reasoning—helping his listeners to advance from a familiar truth to an even stronger conviction.* Based on contrast, this type of reasoning can make a deep impression. Let us examine just two examples.
16 When responding to his disciples’ request to teach them how to pray, Jesus described the willingness of imperfect human parents “to give good gifts” to their children. He then concluded: “If you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will the Father in heaven give holy spirit to those asking him!” (Luke 11:1-13) The point Jesus made is based on contrast. If sinful human parents care for the needs of their children, how much more will our heavenly Father, who is perfect and righteous in every way, grant holy spirit to his loyal worshippers who humbly approach him in prayer!
17 Jesus used similar reasoning when offering wise counsel on dealing with anxiety. He said: “The ravens neither sow seed nor reap, and they have neither barn nor storehouse, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more worth are you than birds? Mark well how the lilies grow; they neither toil nor spin . . . If, now, God thus clothes the vegetation in the field that today exists and tomorrow is cast into an oven, how much rather will he clothe you, you with little faith!” (Luke 12:24, 27, 28) If Jehovah cares for birds and flowers, how much more will he care for humans who love and worship him! With such reasoning, Jesus no doubt touched the hearts of his listeners.
18, 19. How might we reason with someone who says that he does not believe in a God he cannot see?
18 In our ministry, we want to use sound logic to refute false beliefs. We also want to use persuasive reasoning to teach positive truths about Jehovah. (Acts 19:8; 28:23, 24) Must we learn to employ sophisticated logic? Not at all. The lesson we learn from Jesus is that logical arguments presented in a simple manner are most effective.
19 For instance, how might we respond if someone says that he does not believe in a God he cannot see? We could reason on the natural law of cause and effect. When we observe an effect, we realize that there must be a cause. We might say: “If you were in a remote area and came across a well-built house that was stocked with food (effect), would you not readily acknowledge that someone (a cause) was responsible? So, too, when we see the obvious design built into nature and the abundance of food stocked in earth’s ‘cupboards’ (effect), does it not make sense to conclude that Someone (a Cause) is responsible? The Bible itself reasons in this way: ‘Every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God.’” (Hebrews 3:4) Of course, no matter how sound our reasoning, not everyone will be convinced.—2 Thessalonians 3:2.
20, 21. (a) How can we use a “how much more so” line of reasoning to highlight Jehovah’s qualities and ways? (b) What will we discuss in the next chapter?
20 In our teaching, whether in the field ministry or in the congregation, we can also use the “how much more so” line of reasoning to highlight Jehovah’s qualities and ways. For example, to show that the doctrine of eternal torment in hellfire actually dishonors Jehovah, we might say: “What loving father would punish his child by holding his child’s hand in a fire? How much more must the very idea of hellfire be repugnant to our loving heavenly Father!” (Jeremiah 7:31) To assure a depressed fellow believer of Jehovah’s love for him, we could say: “If Jehovah considers even a tiny sparrow to be of value, how much more must he care about and love each of his earthly worshippers, including you!” (Matthew 10:29-31) Such reasoning can help us to reach the hearts of others.
21 After examining just three of the teaching methods that Jesus used, we can easily see that those officers who failed to arrest him were not overstating matters when they said: “Never has another man spoken like this.” In the next chapter, we will discuss the teaching method for which Jesus is perhaps best known, that of using illustrations.
The officers were likely agents of the Sanhedrin and under the authority of the chief priests.
This last statement, found at Acts 20:35, is quoted only by the apostle Paul. He may have received it by word of mouth (either from someone who heard Jesus say it or from the resurrected Jesus) or by divine revelation.
The Jews were required to pay an annual temple tax of two drachmas, which was about two days’ wages. One reference work says: “This tax was chiefly utilized to defray the expenses of the daily burnt-offering and of all the sacrifices in general made in the name of the people.”
Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
This type of reasoning is sometimes termed “a fortiori,” a Latin expression meaning “for a still stronger reason; even more certain; all the more.”