Jesus the Storyteller

nlJBpmgYou’ve gotta love Jesus the storyteller.

In particular, who doesn’t appreciate Jesus’ ability to develop a compelling character?!? In even a short Bible story, Jesus is able to give enough texture and detail to simultaneously help us identify with that person even as we’re being discipled by their story.

In his book Experiential Storytelling, Mark Miller writes:

“Jesus could have opened the Hebrew texts, read every passage flawlessly, exegetes every paragraph with precision, and explained every verse in minute detail. But he chose not to do any of that. Instead, he chose to tell stories. He told stories based on the experiences of the people. He told stories of things people had never thought of. He told stories that caused people to think. These provocative tales made his audience wrestle to understand what he meant. A Samaritan is a hero? A king extends invitations to commoners? And what is with a landlord who doesn’t seem to mind killing one of his servants? These are not trim, tidy, well-edited messages. They are raw stories aimed at the heart by way of the ear.”

And some of Jesus’ most vivid characters are women.

For instance, there’s the woman who searches for her lost coin from Luke 10:8-10. Jesus holds her up as a model for the intensity and the intentionality it takes to seek and save those who are lost, as well as the joy that comes in the finding.

Or there’s the one verse parable in Matthew 13:33 about the woman who uses a little bit of yeast to make bread. As the yeast permeates the flour, so too does the Kingdom of Heaven permeate everything it touches.

And then there’s the persistent widow from Luke 18:1-8. This week some friends and I spent some time with this woman and, wow, did she teach us! Such an example of persistence in prayer, of guts in the face of power, of relentlessness in advocating for what is right. Here’s what theologian Darrell Bock says about this woman:

“I am sure all of us know someone we would call a nag. Such persons are always complaining about something, and if there is an important issue or principle involved, they will not let it go until it is fixed. Such a woman is the example in this parable. We are to pray just as she nags, especially when we desire God’s vindication of our commitment to him. We are to pray and keep praying for this…the woman takes her problem to the judge again and again and again and again! Like a great defensive lineman rushing the passer or a famous goal-scorer sweeping down the goal, she just keeps coming.”

To be sure, using women as positive examples in teaching parables would have been revolutionary in Jesus’ day. After all, these were the men who daily prayed this:

“Blessed are you for not having made me a Gentile, Blessed are you for not having made me a slave, Blessed are you for not having made me a woman.”

Today, in Christendom, no one (or very few) are praying a prayer like that. And yet may say that men can’t learn from the teaching of a woman.

Clearly, Jesus felt differently.

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