“You cannot learn what you think you already know.” — Epictetus

Luke 11:38-42
Luke 9:46-48
Luke 7:36-50

During Jesus’ life and teaching, one group refused to listen. They were those who believed they already had all the answers. They were the religious elite. They had no time for Jesus because they already solved life’s mysteries and refused to ask further questions.

On the other hand, the social outcasts, the tax collectors, followers of other religions, the adulterers, the drinkers, the poor, the crippled, children – these people understood. They could hear Jesus’ teaching because they knew they didn’t have answers tucked neatly into their back pockets. Whether their lack of knowledge, their lack of acceptance by the world, or their bodily failings, something led them to acknowledge a deficiency in themselves. They recognized the space he said he could fill.

For those who deny that such a place exists, Jesus’ words deflected unheard. For those of us who deny this still, Jesus finds no audience, as he appears irrelevant and extraneous.

Steve Chalke, in his book, “The Lost Message of Jesus,” recounts the story of British journalist John Diamond. Diamond wrote a weekly column for “The Times” and in it, he spoke openly of his struggle with throat cancer.

Many concerned people of faith wrote to the openly agnostic Diamond to urge his repentance and conversion, warning of the dangers of hell. This continued for a while, only making the skeptic increasingly skeptical of faith and its adherents. Finally, however, a Jesus follower and a cancer survivor wrote to Diamond asking if they could talk. He wanted to learn how Diamond was coping with cancer and to find out what he could learn from Diamond and his life.

The journalist responded with these words: “The problem I have with Christians is they are so often the peddlers of certainty. You are the only Christian in the entirety of my life who has ever told me that they thought they could learn something from me. I’d love to meet you and talk further.” John Diamond never made the meeting. He died the week after the column containing his reply was published.

Many of us specialize in processed answers that we can take with us anywhere, like meals-ready-to-eat. We have what we need, or so we think, and because of that, we don’t listen to others or the Lord to learn something new. We become like the religious elite of Jesus’ day. Just as Jesus could perform no miracles in his hometown because the people lacked faith, so we can see nothing new of God. Our self-constructed box enclosing God keeps him from acting outside its boundaries. We tell what he can do, with whom, and how (Matthew 15:9).

This is a tragedy.

We don’t let him teach us because we already have the answers. We don’t allow ourselves to learn because we think we already know. We take short-cuts to the end and miss the point of everything.

Do you realize brokenness exists in your life?
Do you think you need love?
Do you believe you need to be taught? 


© 2007