Jesus, The Storyteller

The Jesus Storybook Bible coverIn the last couple years I’ve been noticing how Jesus not only told parables to make some of His points when He was teaching, but He also answered questions from others by telling stories.

Luke contains a few examples of this:

And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.” (7:40 ff)

To which Jesus responded with a story.

But wishing to justify himself, [the lawyer] said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho . . . (10:29-30a)

This is the opening, of course, to the story we know as The Good Samaritan.

One of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.”

After Jesus gave them an example of prayer (which we call the Lord’s Prayer), he proceeded to tell a story to illustrate a particular aspect of prayer:

Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves . . . (11:5)

Sometimes the story came after instruction. In this next example, a man asked Jesus to do something for him.

Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”

Jesus responded with an admonition against greed, then he told a story to illustrate his point.

And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. . . (12:16)

Jesus used this same method of teaching with His disciples:

Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? (12:41-42)

Again, as part of a discussion about repentance, Jesus turned to a parable:

“I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree. . . (13:5-6a)

I could go on, but I think the point is clear: Jesus valued stories as a teaching tool.

One aspect of postmodern culture, which heavily influences society today, is an affinity for stories. How perfect, then, to bring friends and neighbors to the Bible.

Too many people think the Bible is a bunch of rules. Little do they realize how many stories there are, and none more pertinent than the ones Jesus told.

Interestingly, He also spoke in analogies. He referred to Himself as water and bread, a shepherd and a door. He called the Pharisees whitewashed sepulchers and a brood of vipers. He explained His ministry by comparing the people He came to save to a lost coin, a lost sheep, a wayward son.

Stories, analogies. His audience didn’t always track with Him. His disciples didn’t always get what He was saying. Sometimes they thought He was speaking metaphorically when He was being literal—like the times He told them He would die and rise again in three days.

Still, I think Jesus’s methods of teaching show a couple things: He wanted people to reason some things out for themselves and He understood the power of showing, not just telling.

Maybe He also just liked telling stories. He’s a creative God, after all. Maybe telling stories satisfied His creative urge during those ministry years. Or maybe He enjoyed feeding the people’s hearts as much as their heads and their bodies. After all, He’s also a kind and generous God, ready to give what we need.

And apparently, one of the things we need is stories.

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Published in: on May 23, 2014 at 6:13 pm  Comments Off on Jesus, The Storyteller  
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