Jesus: A Masterful Storyteller
Thanks to the pandemic, my family has been at home for nearly a year now, and I have been doing my own at-home Sunday school with my two boys. Of course, we are following the Bridges to Orthodoxy Crossroads materials and, this Lent (March and April) the materials are focused on the Parables of Christ in our two-part series called, The Storyteller. The title is aptly named because Jesus was a Masterful Storyteller.
My younger son often asks me why Jesus couldn’t be more direct with His words: Why did He speak in riddles?”
It is a great question to think about especially this time of year as we re-live Christ’s days on Earth. Why did Jesus teach in Parables? Wouldn’t it have been more effective, more practical, to just give textbook teachings and sermons?
Well, in Mark Chapter 4 Jesus answers this question as follows:
“To you it has been given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.’” Mark 4:11-12.
In other words, Christ spoke in parables because He was teaching us mysterious things – the character of God, the heart of God, the nature of the Kingdom of God. How could we possibly grasp the power of repentance and God’s grace without the Parable of the Prodigal Son? How could we wrap our minds around the need for disciplines such as fasting and prayer without the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, or the Parable of the 10 Virgins? How could we understand the depth of God’s love for us despite our rejection of Him without the Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers?
Through the imaginative allegories that came through in His parables, Christ described the indescribable in a way we could understand and in a way we would never forget. There was wisdom and prophecy behind the stories. There was accountability in His words. There was love for humankind resonating in each allegory.
And His powerful stories, His parables – they remain with us, written in the Holy Bible so we can read them and re-read them and never forget.
As we spend this season recounting Christ’s days on Earth, I encourage you to spend some time meditating on His Parables – His Teachings – they are filled with wisdom, prophecy, and love of humankind. They show us the indescribable character of God and the Kingdom of Heaven in words we can understand.
My son did have a point, Jesus chose to speak in Parables – amazing, masterful, unforgettable stories – and He could have spoken more directly. Christ shows us, though, that “direct words” are not necessarily “effective” words. Christ did not give us the words we wanted to hear, He gave us the messages we needed to hear. And, ultimately, that is why Christ spoke in Parables.
Whatever your family traditions are this time of year, however you are “doing” Sunday school these days – may you all embrace the message and beauty of this Lenten season.
To learn more, check out Part I and Part II of our Storyteller series. Keep in mind, Part II also includes Holy Week resources to help your teens stay engaged throughout the Pascha services relating the messages from Christ’s parables to the events of the Passion Week.