Friday, May 4, 2012

Jesus' Storybook

My children love a good story. We read stories every night, and it is one of the incentives for getting through the not so fun parts of bedtime. They each get to pick a book. They often race to see who will get to pick first. We restock often from the library, but they love to read their favorites over and over again. I was pondering this a few weeks back and decided that I need to make a special effort to introduce them to some of the greatest stories ever told, by the greatest Storyteller.

Many of the examples of Jesus' teaching that we find in the New Testament are in the form of stories called parables. Jesus used real life, common to His culture and time period experiences to explain eternal truths. I'm starting to find each of these stories and learn more about who was listening, where they were, and what Jesus said about each story. The stories might require some explanation to a modern day western culture individual, but the Truth will still apply. I am excited to look at these with my kids, so I thought I would share them with you, too.

The first recorded parable told by Jesus happens at the end of what we call the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was teaching His disciples at a place called the Mount of Olives, and a crowd of people gathered around to hear what He had to say. Space does not permit a full recap of the whole sermon here, but it is the essence of Jesus' teaching on how His disciples should live their lives. Quintessential verses that are widely known and frequently quoted even in secular society come from these passages:
  • Blessed are the meek
  • Let your 'Yes' be 'Yes' and your 'No,' 'No'
  • Turn the other cheek
  • Don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing
  • The Lord's (Model) Prayer - "Our Father..."
  • Casting pearls before swine
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (The Golden Rule)...
...just to name a few. See Matthew 5:1-7:29 to read the full text. Much of what Jesus had to say was radically different from the religious leaders of that day. In that context, Jesus closes with a sermon illustration, the parable of the wise and foolish builders:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)
One builder chooses a solid foundation and the other chooses convenience, but they both have a choice. Neither structure is immune to trouble - they both get wracked by what sounds like the storm of the century. One structure comes through unscathed and the other is destroyed. The analogy Jesus draws for us is to those who hear His teaching and make their choice of what to do with it. Those who choose to obey are like the wise builder who chose to dig down to the bedrock to tie in his foundation. The obedient will experience trouble, but will come through with their integrity. Those who choose not to obey are like the corner-cutting contractor who settles for a foundation on sandstone. When trouble comes they will not stand.

It is clear from this that Jesus expects us to take all of those radical ideas that He taught and put them into practice. This is wisdom according to Jesus' Storybook.

Matthew 7:21-29, Luke 6:46-49, Mark 1:22


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