Stay, Listen, and Understand; Or Leave and Be Left Wondering

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In my last post I explored data revealing Jesus’ surprising penchant for leaving people wondering. I’ll continue today with another revealing chart from the same study of the Gospels:

(Click for a larger version. Opens in new tab or window.)

(Click for a larger version. Opens in new tab or window.)

The abbreviations in the legend stand for the Pre- and Post-Transfiguration periods in Jesus’ ministry. These are followed by the Passion Week (including the Crucifixion), and the Post-Resurrection period. Jesus tended to explain things more clearly as he went along; or rather, he explained more clearly to those who stuck with him to find out what he was really saying. John 8:31 says

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples…

Do you know what comes next? It’s John 8:32:

… and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The truth that sets us free comes neither immediately nor apart from Jesus Christ himself. It comes from abiding, remaining, or simply staying (perhaps basking) in his word.

At the end of my previous post I asked, Does your pastor ever leave you wondering? I raised the question, Why did Jesus so often leave matters unexplained? A few people offered some ideas. As I said then, I have some ideas, telegraphed in the post title: Stay, listen, understand; or leave and be left wondering.

That’s a hint to what I believe is going on here. But I want to hear from you. Does this additional information help any? What would you say now about Jesus’ seemingly paradoxical willingness to leave some people wondering?


I did this analysis as an individual with an hypothesis in mind, whereas the better way to do it would be to have several raters code the analysis without knowing the research question or hypothesis. I’ve intentionally excluded the numeric scale on the left side of the chart because it would imply greater reliability to the analysis than I can claim. I am confident the general shape of the results would hold up under more careful methodologies.

The instances analyzed here were derived from a Harmony of the Gospels, to cover the entire range of Jesus’ ministry and teaching and to exclude parallel-passage duplicates. I used the Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers; in Logos 6 Bible Software.

2 Responses

  1. Raj says:

    ~ Interesting…

    So it seems that if you really want to understand, you will stick it out until you get them. If however your desire for an answer is just the fancy of the moment, you will not stick it out with Jesus, and go off on your own way scratching your head, wondering.

    I also suspect that Jesus raised the question, then lived out the answer, i.e. demonstrated it, and then eventually gave explanations.

    ~ Raj

  2. Martin says:

    Two things:
    1) As someone commented on the last post, some things really are unclear, and even after many years of being a Christian one still has to live with serious questions that remain unanswered. Maybe this is partly because we don’t take the time to dig into the Word more deeply but the fact that many such questions are the object of dispute or remain unclear to a great majority of Christians suggests that some things fall under the “looking into a glass, darkly” category.
    2) What about the Book of Revelation? You did not count that above under “parables”. Of course it’s usually not counted as a parable but since you don’t have any other category, it remains a cryptic text revealed by Jesus. So even after the resurrection, some things are cryptic.

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