Jesus’ Stories

Jesus told stories to (a) show people what the Kingdom of God was like, and (b) move that Kingdom forward. Following his lead, we commonly call these stories parables.

Each parable tells us something important about the Kingdom. That is pretty clear. Each parable on its own, however, does not tell us everything about the Kingdom.

If you’re a preacher, teacher, or some other communicator, you know the problem. You have a big, complex message to get across. Getting it across matters. But you can’t say everything at once. We communicators take the risk every time we speak that our audience will take the small bit we can say while we have their attention right now for the whole of what we think needs to be said.

Some are excited by the little bits they hear. They latch on to the bit we’ve spoken, taking it as congenial with their own current beliefs and desires, and run with it. We’re on their side! Jesus had this problem in John 6. At the beginning of the chapter Jesus tells the people to sit down and eat. He feeds five thousand with only a few loaves and fishes. They’ve heard part of Jesus’ message of the Kingdom. They think “free food!” is all it’s about. By the time he has a chance to tell them more, most have left him, disillusioned.

Sometimes things work the other way. We speakers say something and the very first thing we say is rejected. Maybe it’s not just judged wrong, but it taken as a deep offense. Jesus runs into this in John 8. He starts with the innocuous, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” and by the end of the chapter they’re ready to kill him.

We just can’t say everything at once. We finite followers of Jesus can’t do it. Jesus, God in the flesh, couldn’t do it.

So what are we to do if we want to get Jesus right? We listen to each story, one at a time. And we keep listening. Only as we keep listening will we get any where near hearing the whole message.

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