When teaching a college course or a Sunday School class, I like to use metaphors and analogies. Some of that probably links to my appreciation of CS Lewis’ communication skills; his masterfully used figurative language, especially metaphors and analogies, kicks my mind into overdrive.
When using analogical communication, I easily observe that the image that strikes one person forcefully will make little impression on another person who may be sitting in the next chair, but who in turn will catch my meaning with a different figure of speech. For different folk, a different stroke, I guess. If I am limited to only one analogy to make a point, some of my audience will not get it any better than if I had not used an analogy at all; in fact the analogy they don’t capture may leave them even more confused than they were before hearing my analogy!
All of this brings me to remember that Jesus also spoke and taught to mixed audiences. Some had different appreciations of the value of their contemporary Judaism than did their neighbors. Some had conceptualizing abilities that others didn’t have.
And, then there were background differences – some were abused and others abused, some were wealthy and others begged for bread; some were perpetually ill while others were fit and strong; some were impetuous youth, others were veterans of the seasoning of life; some loved and were loved but others hated and were hated; some were authority figures, others were the dominated ones. Some had solid marriages while others had been married five times before meeting Jesus.
We should not expect them to all appreciate any one particular analogy, or even maybe the same set of analogies. Communicating to a mixed audience forces the speaker to reduce the conceptual content and augment the communication devices. The communicator has to aim for a happy medium, knowing that the “I got it” moment will vary across the audience. It is probably safe to say that Jesus knew a lot more content than His audiences’ limitations permitted Him to teach. Did Jesus also have to check His expectations at the door?