Thank God for Over-Explanation

My husband has an annoying relationship with instruction manuals: he does not need them.

While I hold in awed esteem any set of directions that accompanies a new appliance or piece of furniture, he never notices their existence, preferring to jump right in and start building on his own. This is the engineer in him, of course, while the writer in me treats the printed word as sacred text. (Also, I am admittedly lousy at building anything.)

“Don’t you need the instructions?” I ask, baffled, every time he starts to put together a new gadget or bookshelf or baby gear.

“No,” he replies simply, with a smile, his hands already at work while the poor set of directions lies forgotten on the floor, still in its plastic bag.

Maybe you’re like my husband, and you never need further instructions. But for many of us, these manuals make life much easier. Today’s readings speak directly to Christians who need truth explained to them clearly – over and over again.

Paul is trying to help the Corinthians understand resurrection, as tricky a concept today as it was for the first followers of Christ. What happens to our bodies? What will it mean to be raised?

Jesus is trying to help the crowd understand conversion, as challenging a prospect today as it was for the disciples. How do we let our hearts receive God’s Word? How will our lives be changed?

Both Jesus and Paul resort to over-explanation in their efforts to teach the people. Paul sounds like an exasperated tutor (“You fool!”), while Jesus sounds more like a patient parent (“This is the meaning of the parable”).

I, for one, am grateful for their explanation and exegesis. Today’s readings are not like those annoying IKEA instruction guides, assuming obvious and instant clarity. Paul and Jesus clearly think it is worth the time and trouble to explain and emphasize and elaborate the points they are trying to make.

Because they are telling us about the heart of the matter, the kernel of truth at the center of their teachings. The Christian life of faith looks like this: transformation. Death, sacrifice, and suffering, but then life! reward! resurrection!

We will be changed. Our lives and our bodies will be changed. The world around us will be changed. And in this transformation – from seed to shoot, from earth to heaven, from death to life – we will encounter the power of God who never ceases to change us.

Paul encouraged the Corinthians to wrap their heads around this truth about the bodily resurrection. Jesus labored to make his disciples see the deeper meaning behind his parable of the sower and the seed.

And in tying these two Scripture passages together today, the Church invites us to do the same. To appreciate the over-explanation. To meditate on the message. To let our minds and lives be transformed by this truth: if we believe, we will be changed.


Laura Kelly Fanucci is a writer and mother to three little boys who never stop talking. She and her husband live in the suburban wilds of Minnesota. You can find out more about her here.

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