"Jesus Told Stories"
Jesus told stories. Many would agree that He was the master storyteller. In the Gospel According to Matthew, we read in 13:34 that Jesus did not say anything to the crowds without using stories (parables). In Stories With Intent, Dr. Klyne Snodgrass writes that Jesus’ parables are among the best known and most influential stories in the world. Even if people know nothing of Jesus, they either know of his stories or have encountered their impact in expressions like “prodigal” or “good Samaritan.” Why stories? There is nothing so attractive or so compelling as a good story. Children as well as adults do not say, “Tell me some facts;” they want to hear a story. Stories are inherently interesting. Dr. Snodgrass writes that they entertain, inform, involve, motivate, authenticate and mirror existence (life).
Dr. N. T. Wright, in his book Simply Christian, says that Christians claim to have the true story about God and the world. Christians believe that the story did not just happen. That story began in the very beginning when God created the heavens and the earth. God saw that it was good. God then created human beings and saw that it was very good; that is, until human beings put themselves in the place of God. God scattered them and their languages and chose a family through which to begin what Dr. Wright calls “God’s rescue operation.” Through Abraham and his family the whole world would be blessed (human beings would ultimately be brought back into a relationship with God). But, what happened when the very people who were to be the conduit of blessing – the bearers of the solution – become part of the problem instead? God acts from within the covenant people themselves to complete the rescue operation which began its final phase in and through what Jesus Christ. He told stories to point people to the story!
The story of what Jesus did and said is what we have in the Gospels. The book of Acts simply continues that story of what Jesus said and did through the Apostles as they are empowered by the Holy Spirit. In the main speeches of Acts, Peter, Stephen and Paul, all tell how this story came about. Peter later makes clear (II Peter 1:16-18) that it was not some cleverly invented story but one that was real because they were eyewitnesses to it.
God’s story not only invites people in, but invites us to respond as well. Once inside the story, people are challenged to see life from new angles and hear the messages with fresh ears. If what God really wanted was for us to know a lot of facts, we would have been given a list to memorize. As such, when we read the Bible our purpose is not trying to come up with answers to questions like where did Cain get his wife or did the flood cover the whole earth. Instead, we are to read with a willingness to hear where the story goes – not pile up information, but instead plow up the hardened soil of our minds so that the word of God might be received in fresh and new ways. That is why Dr. Snodgrass calls them “Stories with intent.”
Jesus’ stories were the means that He used most frequently to explain the kingdom of God and to show the character of God and the expectations that God has for humans; and by doing so, challenge those who hear to respond appropriately to the story’s message. How will we respond? Perhaps his point in the story about the Good Samaritan might also be applied to the Good San Antonian – “Go and do likewise!”