Jesus was a master communicator and a highly influential figure. One of his favorite techniques was unpredictability; it got attention, incited questions, challenged prevailing interpretations of Scripture and invited conversations.
Gabriel visited a teenager and announced, Mary, you’re going to give birth to the Son of God. Surprise!
Jesus announced himself to be the Messiah as he read from Isaiah in his home town of Nazareth. No one saw that coming.
He healed physical illness, delivered people from demons, commanded the elements of nature, and forgave sins. Most unexpected.
Jesus enjoyed the company of sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes. Shocking!
He rejected positions of religious and political power, was not a member of the Sanhedrin and did not possess a formal education. Unheard of.
Just about when his followers began to realize that Jesus really was the Messiah, he started teaching them that he would suffer and die. What?!?
Jesus allowed himself to be arrested, falsely charged and crucified. His death is arguably the most shocking, horrifying, unimaginable event in human history. The love and grace of God was never more powerfully communicated.
Communications experts recognize great persuasive potential in the combination of low predictability and high information that Jesus employed. His miracles were often accompanied by tantalizing teaching. After feeding five-thousand people on a hillside he taught the disciples that he is the “bread of life.” There’s something to chew on: Low predictability; high (if slightly confusing) information.
Unexpected behavior gets our attention. It makes us think. We ask questions. Therefore, it opens our eyes to see an individual or to hear a message without the interference of stereotypes.
As I think about Jesus’s followers today, I’d characterize us as high predictability; high information. Our information might be solid, true and even skillfully presented, but perhaps high predictability dulls its reception.
Everyone expects churches to hold worship services and Sunday Schools, summer VBS camps, host PADS shelters and stock food pantries. These are good and worthy practices, and they typically feature high information about Jesus. But, are they influential?
More problematic is when Christians reinforce negative stereotypes by displaying judgmental, hypocritical, or narrow-minded attitudes. Sadly, many people believe this is predictable. Information is ignored.
The grace and love of God have tremendous shock value. What if we demonstrated them in unpredictable ways?
Perhaps we would generate some redemptive high information conversations.
Would you think about this with me? Imagine unexpected behavior that is consistent with the heart and Word of Jesus Christ (shock for its own sake is not the point – it must reveal the love and/or grace of God) and ask yourself what kinds of interactions might result from such Christ-like unpredictability. Maybe you’re way ahead of me. If so, I’d love to hear how you do this.
“All the people were astonished and said, ‘Could this be the Son of David?‘” Matthew 12:23
If you’re interested, this post expresses a similar thought.