If you’re new to the faith, if you’ve forgotten or were never taught some of these concepts, or if you’re just curious as to how your own story fits in with God’s story, this article is for you.
Human beings crave stories. From very young childhood, we’re entertained by them, cautioned by them, learn from them, and willingly pay good money to be mesmerized by them (i.e., taken out of our own story and immersed in someone else’s) for a few hours—whether in a book, a movie, a play, even a video game or a painting.
I’ve been thinking a lot about story lately in terms of the best-selling book of all time—more than five billion copies sold, and still the best-selling book year after year—the Bible. (The fact that these statistics are still true will hopefully cheer believers living in a post-Christian or nearly post-Christian America.)
The greatest of all stories.
Long before video games, movies, and even books as we know them today, Jesus, knowing the effect that stories have on us, used parables (short stories that illustrate a spiritual lesson) for teaching purposes throughout his three-year ministry. From their clueless reactions to many of the stories’ lessons and meanings, it might appear that his disciples were not always the sharpest knives in the drawer, being pretty obtuse when it came to understanding what Jesus was actually talking about. But to be fair, they were mostly unaware that they were in the living presence of the Savior of the world, God’s own Son, and who’s to say what our responses would have been in that situation? It’s human to be skeptical, even when witnessing miracles right in front of our eyes. We might view the parables as not terribly difficult to understand, but Christians today have the benefit of two thousand years of commentary and analysis, not to mention a firm knowledge of who Jesus is and what he came to do, so comprehension comes a little easier to the modern listener or reader.
But beyond the parables that Jesus told, the Bible is filled with story after story after story. The stories of creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the flood, the tower of Babel, Abraham and Sarah … and that’s just the first 15 pages of my 1,260-page Bible. The story of Jesus’ own life, death, and resurrection story takes four entire books to tell, over and over. The history of Israel and the early Christians are told in story form (Exodus, Ruth, 1 Samuel, Esther, Acts). The poets and prophets are storytellers (Job, Daniel, Hosea, Jonah). End-times visions are told as story (Revelation). It’s no wonder we teach children about the Bible using books with titles like The Jesus Storybook Bible, The Big Picture Story Bible (my favorite), Baby’s First Bible Stories, and so many more.
What’s the purpose of God’s story?