Cross-communicating

phone linesYears ago my brother told me a story that occurred while he was at work. He happened to overhear two of his colleagues engage in the following conversation:

Bob says, “Hey Biff, do you have a tent at home?”

Biff (who thought Bob asked, ‘Do you have an antennae at home?’) replies, “No. But I do have a TV.”

Bob (who thought Biff said, ‘No, but I do have a teepee.’) responds, “Yeah? Cool.”

The real comedy, not lost on my eavesdropping brother, was that both men proceeded on their merry way, completely happy with their short conversation; but neither of them had any idea that they had totally missed what the other was talking about!*

People can often be communicating on two entirely different levels – and in some cases they never even notice the disconnect. Such “cross communication” can be comical — or downright frustrating –depending on the context.

Jesus raised the art-form of cross-communication to a whole new level. A spiritual one. He loved to inject profound spiritual truths into banal conversations using subtle, hidden meanings which often flew right over the heads of his less-attentive listeners. My son pointed out one of these incidents to me the other day. He was reading in John 4:27-38. That passage, as told from the viewpoint of Jesus’ less-than-astute disciples, went something like this:

Disciples: “Rabbi, do you want some of this food we bought?”

Jesus: “No, I’m good. I’ve got some food you don’t know about.”

Disciples: (“Did someone bring him a Big Mac?”)

Jesus: “Look around you, fellas. The fields. They’re ready for harvest. So I started harvesting. Rejoice, dudes. Others did the work – we get to do the reaping!”

Disciples: (“Uh oh. You know we’re gonna get busted for this again!”)

Of course, that’s what the disciples heard, but it’s not what he said. Once again, he was on a whole different level. He loved to do that. He did it all the time. As my 14 year-old son observed, “That must have been seriously frustrating for his disciples!” Indeed.

So what’s the point? Why did he do that so often? Was he just trying to be annoying? a smart-alec? No. This just goes back to one of God’s favorite games: playing Hide and Seek. He loves Treasure Hunts. This is a theme that is repeated over and over in Scripture: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” (Pr 25:2; cf. Dt 29:29). Jesus admitted he loved this game in Matt 13:10-13. Read that passage for yourself and see if you can figure out why.

…Oh, you want me to tell you? Come back another day and I’ll fill you in.

*UPDATE: I just encountered another example of this:

My daughter, coming across a word in  Wikipedia that she didn’t  know how to pronounce, asked me, “Dad, what does ‘int-a-grated’ mean?” Trying to give her a simple answer, I said, “Integrated? It means ‘built-in’.” Satisfied, she said, “OK. It says here the Eiffel tower was ‘built in’ 1889.” My curiosity piqued, I peeked at the article she was reading. It said, “Eiffel tower: Inaugurated, 1889”!

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