Apart from scribbling in the sand, why didn’t Jesus write anything down? My favorite answer is that Christ knew the most important ingredient for great teaching. He made his message memorable! So memorable that he didn’t even need modern communication tools to change the world. Dallas Willard has some interesting thoughts in The Divine Conspiracy that are quite helpful.
“Christ’s teaching was so memorable that he didn’t need modern communication to be remembered.”
Willard reminds us that how we both teach and learn is different today than it was in the day of Christ. He writes:
We must recognize first of all that the aim of the popular teacher in Jesus’ time was not to impart information but to make a significant change in the lives of the hearers. Of course, that may require an information transfer but it is a peculiarly modern notion that the aim of teaching is to bring people to know things that may have no effect at all on their lives. In our day, learners usually think of themselves as containers of some sort with the purely passive space to be filled by the information the teacher possesses and wishes to transfer – the from jug to mug model. The teacher is to fill in empty parts of the receptacle with truth that may or may not make some difference in the life of the one who has it. The teacher must get the information into them. We then test the patient to see if they got it by seeing if they can reproduce it in language, rather than watching how they live.
Willard goes on to imagine what would happen if you or I were to listen to Jesus preach today. Likely, we would want to record him in order to make sure that we would have every word to listen to again later. He pictures Jesus at the Sheraton preaching a message, and a modern person going with an audio recorder in one hand and a notebook in the other. Picture our time-traveller walking up to Peter and saying, “Where are the lecture outlines and other materials for the sermon?” Peter would answer, “You don’t need anything like that, just listen to Jesus.”
Great Teaching is Memorable When it Changes Us:
As a personal example, Willard goes on to describe the time he heard about Kennedy’s assassination, pointing out that he knew exactly where he was and what he was doing when he heard the news. He says, “I never wrote it down and I never memorized it.” The point is this: “we automatically remember what makes a great difference in our lives.” Jesus, the great teacher, knew this and taught in a way that tied his teachings to concrete events that make up the hearer’s lives.
So as Willard concludes, when people cannot remember truth that makes a difference for their lives, then that truth makes no difference at all. Great teaching requires that we make things memorable and teach for life-change.
“We automatically remember what makes a great difference in our lives.” Dallas A Willard