I've been blessed, for the last 2 years plus, to be the Sunday School teacher for the college and career class at Wise Baptist Church, where Tabitha and I are members.
For that class, we use the LifeWay sunday school lessons for young adults. For this month the lessons have focused on well-known passages from the bible with the idea of reconnecting with and expounding upon their meaning. I was initially skeptical about this approach, but it's been working out well.
Today's lesson focused on the need for fellowship and the reasons why being a part of a fellowship of believers is more central to Jesus' plan for us than we often give it credit. In support of this we read, in part, Matthew 16: 13-20.
Those verses recount the familiar occasion where Jesus asked his assembled disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" and when they answered he then turned their responses around when he asked, "Who do you say that I am?"
I asked the class, "why do you think Jesus was asking the question?" If you believe Jesus is who he says he is, then the answer cannot be because he didn't know the answer. Tabitha answered my question by suggesting that Jesus was using the Socratic method; that is, asking questions whose answers will lead to a conclusion not for the questioner but to those to whom the questions were asked. In other words, it's a method of teaching where the teacher acts as a guide while getting their students to come to realisations on their own.
But, as I thought about it during church today, I realised that it's not fair to call what Jesus was doing the "Socratic" method because Socrates, or any other teacher, must necessarily share a limitation not shared by the Son of God. Namely, not really knowing what your students are going to say. So, perhaps we should call this the Nazarene Method.
The Nazarene Method is applied over and over again throughout the New Testament. In church we discussed Jesus' post-resurrection appearance to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, an event similar to other post-resurrection appearances in that the physical person of Jesus was revealed before his identity. In each instance, the stranger would ask questions of the disciples to make them realise who Jesus was and how they needed to respond to his resurrection and teaching.
In our lives, I think, that's how Jesus still chooses to work. I'm not suggesting that the physical form of Jesus walks the earth with us. Instead, I'm suggesting that if you see Jesus' will, or ask God to reveal his plan, you can't expect him to give you the whole thing up-front. Instead, he wants to guide you to a place where you to come to an understanding on your own.