“‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves…They stripped off his raiment’, the parable continues, ‘and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.’
“Pretty soon a priest came by and seeing the victim said to himself: ‘That’s a shameful thing, the police ought to do something about these outrages.’ But he crossed over carefully and passed by on the other side.
“A certain respectable Levite also appeared. ‘His own fault,’ he sniffed, ‘ought to be more careful.’ And he too passed by. Then a third traveler drew near, and stopped — and the whole world knows what happened…”
— The Man Nobody Knows by Bruce Barton
Say it was your job to advertise to ancient Jerusalem that God wants people to love each other. What could be more memorable than the story of the Good Samaritan? It’s simple and it has it’s roots in every-day human experience and need, and it will probably live on forever.
The book quoted above, recommended by Paramhansa Yogananda to his followers, was written in 1925 to help people adapt the teachings of Jesus to the Roaring Twenties. The author, Bruce Barton, presents a very different image of Jesus than the sad and weak figure who hangs on the cross. He says that Jesus’ strong and magnetic way of teaching is very relevant to modern life and his perspective is interesting to those of us on the spiritual path who have been inspired by his teachings.
He identifies four main elements that lend Jesus’ teachings so much power (besides him being an avatar, of course). We too can use these tools, whether we give public presentations or just wish our words to be more magnetic.
1. They are condensed. Take a look at the first chapter of Genesis. You’ll see that the whole story of creation can be summed up less than 800 words. Jesus didn’t waste words either. When he wanted someone to be his disciple, all he said was, “Follow me.”
And it wasn’t just that Jesus was a fully realized being. Anyone can use this technique to their advantage. There were two speeches given on the battleground of Gettysburg. One was a two hour lecture that is long forgotten. The one that stuck in people’s minds and hearts; the one that children all over the United States are made to memorize, was 272 words long.
2. He uses simple language. Jesus’ parables draw from the most ordinary experiences of daily life: farming, herding sheep, family life, etc. Things all the poor and working class people of the time could relate to. He uses few adjectives and long words.
“A sower went forth to sow”; “a certain man had two sons”; “the kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed.” These words of his are made up mostly of one-syllable words with a few two-syllable ones. Not a single three-syllable word in sight.
Long words might make a sentence look pretty, but simple statements are the most easily understood and remembered.
3. His sincerity. What Jesus taught and who he was were one and the same. It was the life he lived that showed the power and truth of what he said. He didn’t just tell people to love each other and then leave, he visited their houses and ate with them. He spent time with people of every class, showing that God cares more about your willingness to receive Him than your social class or wealth.
This kind of sincerity is necessary for success in spiritual and worldly advancement. In your spiritual practices, try to be as sincere as Jesus was when approaching God and speaking on spiritual matters. Speak from what you have experienced, rather than what you have heard. In relationships, including those with your children, mean every word you say, and they will feel your sincerity. People can intuitively sense when your words lack conviction, and how can you convince anyone else if you can’t convince yourself?
4. He repeats himself. Jesus wanted to get across to people that God loves us as a father loves his children. But it’s impossible to make a lasting impression on a large group of people by only saying something once.
The first time, a few people may be listening, and then promptly forget it. The next time, some more people may hear it, and maybe the first people to notice will start to take it to heart. But it takes several repetitions if you want to reach a large audience and make sure they all remember it, and of course Jesus wanted to reach the whole world.
So Jesus gives us that message of love over and over again through many of his parables. In just one chapter, Luke 15, there are three such stories.
And to take it one step further than Barton’s book, God keeps on repeating himself by sending other avatars, to all parts of the world, to keep reminding us of who we truly are.
Here’s a nice concluding thought from Barton’s book:
“And whoever feels an impulse to make his own life count in this grand process of human betterment, can have no surer guide for his activities than the advertisements of Jesus. Let him learn their lesson, that if you would teach people you first must capture their interest with news; that your service rather than your sermons must be your claim upon their attention; that what you say must be simple, and brief, and above all sincere—the unmistakable voice of true regard and affection. ‘Ye’, said he, “are my friends.”