By Darlene Melcher
“Why did Jesus speak so often in parables?” my youth pastor asked us.
Honestly, as a new Christian, I often got frustrated with discipleship. Why did they ask us all the questions? Why didn’t they just give us all the answers? Was this supposed to be some kind of test or something? I was a young, thirsty sponge of a new believer, and I just couldn’t take it all in fast enough. I didn’t appreciate the lessons that must be learned over time. When I began writing, most of my articles were fairly straightforward and to the point. None of this beating about the bush! I thought.
At the same time, however, I nurtured my love of fiction writing. Even to this day, I am always in the middle of reading a book (or five). One day I finally decided to write a fictional allegorical article called The Captives. I was amazed at the response, and I wondered why it seemed to have such an impact. The question came back to me, “Why did Jesus speak so often in parables?”
The Gospels contain at least 45 parables (stories) told by Jesus during His three years of earthly ministry! How many can you remember? Did you name The Lost Coin, the Good Samaritan, and the Marriage Feast? (Luke 15:8–10, Luke 10:25–37, Matthew 22:1–14). How about the Lost Sheep or the Pearl of Great Price? (Luke 15:4–7, Matthew 13:45–46).
A story is memorable. Which do you remember more; stories you have heard, or facts you have read? Stories, allegories and parables stick with us because we see the images unfolding in our minds and we connect to the events emotionally. Try this: read the following sentences once through, then close your eyes and see which one you remember with more clarity:
- Ben’s phone number is 026-280-9737
- Ben laughed as the brown puppy licked his face
Scenes stick with us, while facts grow fuzzy.
A story lowers our defenses. Remember when David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and Nathan the prophet came to confront him? The little story about a cherished lamb touched the heart of the King who once was a shepherd, and opened his eyes. If Nathan had come in with both scrolls blazing, do you think the powerful king of Israel would have found it as easy to humbly repent?
A story prepares us to receive the truth. Sometimes we just aren’t ready to hear the truth. We need to take a journey that helps remove our layers of resistance, and prepares us to see and believe. We need to see with our mind’s eye the shining pearl, gleaming white, with rainbows dancing across the glossy surface, before we understand the crazy actions of a man selling all he owns to acquire the precious gem.
A story becomes a part of us. Have you ever found yourself reading a fictional story and find you want to pray for the characters? I don’t think I’m the only person who experiences the struggles and triumphs with the characters they read. We relate with them, and their journey becomes our own. We close the back cover of a book slowly, and we are different than when we read the first page.
– Adapted from Doors of Destiny Traveler’s Companion