Introduction: Metaphor? It is not a town or a person. I’ll not strain
your memory about high school English. You use a metaphor when you
want to teach that one thing is similar or the same as something
else. What are we talking about here? Parables. Stories. Jesus was a
story teller, and His stories were intended to teach us truths about
God and about life. In a book I recently read about the brain, it
asserted that our brains are lazy. If we already have figured out one
thing, when something similar, but more complex comes along, we are
likely to consider them the same and use the same solution. No need
to struggle with the complexity in the new problem. Would God appeal
to lazy brains? Let’s plunge into our study of the Bible and see what
we can learn about why Jesus told stories!
- Storytelling and the Mind
- Read Psalms 78:1-3 and Matthew 13:34-35. Aside from us
having lazy brains, why do you think Jesus taught through
the use of parables?
- Some time ago, I read a study of jurors. It found that the
average juror had an attention span of seven minutes.
Imagine that! You are in an unfamiliar place (a
courthouse), you are called upon to decide very important
things – perhaps even about life and death, and your
attention span is seven minutes. How is listening to a
sermon different? (The surroundings are familiar, your
seat is comfortable, and you are unlikely to be questioned
about the sermon at the end.)
- What do you think is the attention span for those
listening to a sermon? (Not more than seven minutes!)
- What is the solution to this problem? (Stories!
Stories capture the attention of he audience.
If you do not believe me, sit where you can
watch the audience during a sermon. When a
story is being told, the people look at the
speaker. When I preach, one-third to one-half
of my time is spent telling stories.)
- Read Matthew 13:13. Think back to the last sermon you
heard. Can you remember what it was about? Can you
remember the sermon after you have eaten your Sabbath
- Do you feel like the people described in Matthew
13:13? If so, is it your fault – you need to
concentrate more? (I’ve asked myself if I’m wasting
precious sermon time with all of my stories. Then I
recall a sermon I heard that was a solid “Bible”
sermon. It consisted of many Bible verses strung
together with some commentary between. When I walked
out of the church, I could hardly remember the
sermon. On the other hand, I once had a young person
recite to me a story I had told in a sermon ten years
before! What good is it to craft a sermon if people
cannot remember it two hours later?)
- Can you remember a sermon story from years ago?
- Storytelling and Politics
- Read 2 Samuel 12:1-4. What are your thoughts about the
- When you heard this story, did you think about how
much you love your pet?
- Thousands of years separate this story from us. I
doubt that many readers raise sheep. Despite this, is
the story still relevant? Is it still persuasive?
- Read 2 Samuel 12:5-6. Was King David’s reaction the same
- Read 2 Samuel 12:7-9. Imagine if you were Nathan and God
sent you to tell the King that he was greedy, ungrateful,
unjust, an adulterer and a murderer? How do you think that
confrontation would go?
- Read Matthew 21:28-30. Which son do you think did the will
of his father?
- Read Matthew 21:31. Jesus asks the same question I just
asked you. (I got the question from Him.) What is the
purpose of the story and the question? (It is to convict
the people about the difference between words and
- Do you truly believe what you just answered? If so,
what does this say about righteousness by faith? (It
says a great deal. We are saved by faith, not by
works, but our works reveal our faith. See James
- Let’s look at this a little more deeply. Read Matthew
21:31-32. The identity of the audience is found in Matthew
21:23. They are the chief priests and elders. Jesus
unfavorably compares their works to those of prostitutes
and tax collectors. What kind of works could Jesus
possibly be talking about? (“Works” is a very broad term.
The work of the son was to obey the call of the father.
The work of the prostitutes and tax collectors was to obey
the call of God. They believed John and repented. Some
would say that responding and repenting was only faith and
- What message did Jesus want to convey to the
religious leaders? (That the tax collectors and
prostitutes were ahead of them in their spiritual
- What if Jesus just said that? How would that go
over? (Just like with King David and the
prophet Nathan, we see that telling a story
makes it easier to speak truth to power. The
target of the rebuke agrees with the point
before becoming defensive.)
- Storytelling and Truth
- Read Luke 14:1-4. Why do you think Jesus’ listeners did
- Read Luke 14:5-6. After hearing Jesus’ story (or, at least
His analogy), why did Jesus’ listeners not respond?
Explain what you guess was their thought process. (They
knew it was wrong to work on Sabbath. They also knew that
they would rescue their son or animal on Sabbath. Thus,
there was a conflict in their minds that prevented them
from immediately responding.)
- What would you answer? (The story shows us that the
correct answer is that we should do good on the
- If you think about this, something very odd is taking
place. Why should a person’s views about rescuing an
animal have anything to do with God’s view of the
Sabbath? Why is right behavior defined by what we
would naturally do for an animal or our child?
- Read Luke 14:16-23. We recognize this as a parable that
teaches us about salvation. What motivates the decisions
of the man preparing the banquet? (Anger.)
- Let me ask you again, why is truth about salvation
defined by the anger of the host of the banquet? (We
are bumping into a profound truth. God is the Creator
of the universe. He created the rules of the
universe. Although we are scarred by sin and have
evil propensities, we have in us an understanding of
truth. The fact that common, every-day stories
reflect the teachings of the Bible proves the truth
of Christianity and tends to prove the existence of
God. In some sense it is the grand unified theory of
- Storytelling and Kingdom Secrets
- We have discussed how stories keep our attention, disarm
our defenses and help us to remember and understand
lessons. Let’s look at another aspect of storytelling.
Read Mark 4:10-12. Are parables like a secret handshake –
only insiders understand it? Or, is the only valid point
the one we discussed before – that stories help us to pay
- Look again at Mark 4:12. Why would Jesus want to make
it difficult for someone to repent and be forgiven?
(That cannot be Jesus’ meaning for it is contrary to
the whole tenor of the Bible. Instead, I think Jesus
is teaching us that people who do not seek the truth
will miss the point of the parable. However, those
who want to know truth will focus on the story, be
diligent in their study, and learn the deeper truth
in a way not easily forgotten.)
- Friend, have you read through the gospels and studied the
parables of Jesus? If not, why not start reading today so
that you will be a gospel insider? Why not study to open
the truths of the Bible in such a way that you are not
likely to forget?
- Next week: Discipleship and Prayer.