Straight Answers


Why does Jesus never give straight answers to anyone in the gospels?


As someone who spends some time everyday translating Jesus’s words, his answers fall into three categories that people today find difficult to understand:

  1. Entertaining, down-to-earth answers phrased to be shockingly memorable,
  2. Layered answers, with double and triple meanings, that had a meanings for his listeners by reveal new insights on each reading and to each generation,
  3. Answers to questions where we lack the context for true understanding but can be pointed in the right direction.

I could provide hundreds of examples of all three of the categories above, but let us focus on the second. A ll of Christ’s answers were given in the context of people of his time, but also in a greater context that could be understood for all time. Think about how difficult this is to do. Almost impossible for an ordinary person. 

For example, everyone has heard verses where Jesus tells people that they must “take up their cross” to follow him (Matthew 16:24, Matthew 10:38, Mark 8:34, etc.) However, this is not what his listeners at the time heard.

The word translated into “cross” in English is stauros (σταυρν), but it doesn’t mean “cross”. It means “stake”, as in a tent stake or any pole in the ground.

Since, Jesus hadn’t died by being staked up to his “cross” yet, his listeners at the time could not possibly heard "take up your crosses". They would hear it more like we do, “pull up your stakes” as in give up the place you have staked out so you can move on.

However, since we know more of the story, the line has a different meaning to us today. Unfortunately, his first meaning also applies to us. We must abandon the areas we have staked out in order to follow him. Unfortunately, this meaning is lost in translation. Who could write a line like that much less speak them impromptu? And Jesus spoke hundreds of such lines.