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Thinking about narrative again. Can we use stories the way that Jesus did?

Posted by on Mar 31, 2011 in discipleship | 11 comments

Thinking about narrative again. Can we use stories the way that Jesus did?

When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus gave two: 1) Love God and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. When asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told a story. He used a narrative (without explanation) to help people understand the two great commandments.

When describing the kingdom of God, Jesus told stories. He told simple stories of physical things that everyone could understand in order to help explain spiritual things that they were having a hard time understanding. Again, many times he told these stories without explanation.

When Jesus wanted people to understand who much he cares for them and how he would never run away and leave them, he told stories. He compared himself to a shepherd who owns the sheep and contrasted himself with hired helpers.

When Jesus wanted his disciples to understand how important it was for them to stay connected to him, the told them a story, probably as they walked through a vineyard. He compared their relationship to the Father and to Himself to the connection between the gardener, the vine, and the branches.

Why do you think Jesus explained such important ideas and concepts using stories, often with very little explanation? Do you think we can use stories in the same way today? Why or why not?


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  1. 3-31-2011

    A story to me reduces argument or debate. It is hard to debate a personal story.

    If you do not like the story or it does not pertain to you it is usually ignored, but if there is a hint of something in the story that pertains to you and your life, you will likely ponder it later on in the future.

    A story is also interpreted differently by many different people. This way you can relate to many different types of people with one story.

    Just my 2 cents…Swanny

  2. 3-31-2011

    Maybe Jesus used to stories to convey his message because that is the best way for people to learn.

    I remember the stories my dad, grandparents and uncles told me when I was young. I will remember a story illustrating a point a lot better than a lecture. Maybe it is because we connect with stories. I know everyone is bent a different way and learns differently, but show me a story with a point vs a lecture and the story wins every time.

    Why do we think we can change how Jesus taught and discipled and come up with a better way? I am still not convinced lectures, sermons, etc are good ways of learning.

  3. 3-31-2011

    Jesus spoke in parables so only those given understanding by God would understand.

  4. 3-31-2011


    You said, “If there is a hint of something in the story that pertains to you and your life, you will likely ponder it later on in the future.” That’s a great way to put it. Do you think some people are concerned that stories can interpreted different ways by different people?


    Some people learn from lectures, sermons, etc. However, I agree that people can and do learn from stories as well.


    What do we do about those parables that Jesus spoke to his disciples? Or, what about other stories that were not parables?


  5. 3-31-2011

    Great question. I think he used stories because people, everyone, is living a story. We’re tuned in to respond to human narrative, because we relate it to our own narrative. It’s how we’re socialized, it’s how we learn things. So to teach about the Kingdom…voila! What better way to condition disciples and show them what they need to see. It’s not exhaustive or systematic, but he comes up with a new one each time a new question needs answering. It works because we are a story.

  6. 3-31-2011

    From the parables we learn about the kingdom of heaven. Christ was explaining His kingdom to us. I’m not sure that there is something to do, but things to learn from by His Spirit. I’m not sure which stories were not parables. Do you have any examples? By the way, here is the Scripture from which I gave my answer:

    Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.
    (Mat 13:10-14 ESV)

  7. 3-31-2011


    I like that. We’re all living a story.


    Sorry, I think I misunderstood you earlier. The parables were types of stories. There were times when Jesus spoke parables when only disciples were around. Why do you think he spoke in parabolic language (metaphors, for instance) when only believers were around?


  8. 3-31-2011

    Misunderstandings are very easy on the internet :).

    Imagine explaining something completely new to someone. Something that that person has never experienced or even heard of. That was the task that Jesus had with his disciples. Plus, the disciples did not yet have the Spirit dwelling in them to explain things to them. Jesus took what they knew and applied these things to His Kingdom. I do think it is appropriate to use metaphors nowadays, especially when teaching new Christians. For those dealing with people from other cultures, it would be wise to reveal the Kingdom of God in metaphors from their culture.

  9. 4-1-2011

    Even if Christians miss a biblical truth, often those who are careful observers in the world discover aspects of these things on their own. Here are two secular books that promote the use and efficacy of “storytelling” in communications:

    The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling by Annette Simmons

    The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations by Stephen Denning

  10. 4-1-2011

    Am I concerned of people interpreting stories in different ways? Quite the opposite. I would want the story to have depth like Jesus’ stories did.

  11. 4-1-2011


    I’ve also found that stories can be beneficial for those of us who have been following Jesus for a long time, especially when they help us see something that we’ve missed before.


    Thanks for the book info!


    I agree.