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Lesson 2: Discipling Through Metaphor *

Introduction: Metaphor? It is not a town or a person. I'll not strain your memory about high school English. You use a metaphor when you want to teach that one thing is similar or the same as something else. What are we talking about here? Parables. Stories. Jesus was a story teller, and His stories were intended to teach us truths about God and about life. In a book I recently read about the brain, it asserted that our brains are lazy. If we already have figured out one thing, when something similar, but more complex comes along, we are likely to consider them the same and use the same solution. No need to struggle with the complexity in the new problem. Would God appeal to lazy brains? Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn about why Jesus told stories!

  1. Storytelling and the Mind

    1. Read Psalms 78:1-3 and Matthew 13:34-35. Aside from us having lazy brains, why do you think Jesus taught through the use of parables?

    2. Some time ago, I read a study of jurors. It found that the average juror had an attention span of seven minutes. Imagine that! You are in an unfamiliar place (a courthouse), you are called upon to decide very important things - perhaps even about life and death, and your attention span is seven minutes. How is listening to a sermon different? (The surroundings are familiar, your seat is comfortable, and you are unlikely to be questioned about the sermon at the end.)

      1. What do you think is the attention span for those listening to a sermon? (Not more than seven minutes!)

        1. What is the solution to this problem? (Stories! Stories capture the attention of he audience. If you do not believe me, sit where you can watch the audience during a sermon. When a story is being told, the people look at the speaker. When I preach, one-third to one-half of my time is spent telling stories.)

    3. Read Matthew 13:13. Think back to the last sermon you heard. Can you remember what it was about? Can you remember the sermon after you have eaten your Sabbath lunch?

      1. Do you feel like the people described in Matthew 13:13? If so, is it your fault - you need to concentrate more? (I've asked myself if I'm wasting precious sermon time with all of my stories. Then I recall a sermon I heard that was a solid "Bible" sermon. It consisted of many Bible verses strung together with some commentary between. When I walked out of the church, I could hardly remember the sermon. On the other hand, I once had a young person recite to me a story I had told in a sermon ten years before! What good is it to craft a sermon if people cannot remember it two hours later?)

      2. Can you remember a sermon story from years ago?

  2. Storytelling and Politics

    1. Read 2 Samuel 12:1-4. What are your thoughts about the rich man?

      1. When you heard this story, did you think about how much you love your pet?

      2. Thousands of years separate this story from us. I doubt that many readers raise sheep. Despite this, is the story still relevant? Is it still persuasive?

    2. Read 2 Samuel 12:5-6. Was King David's reaction the same as yours?

    3. Read 2 Samuel 12:7-9. Imagine if you were Nathan and God sent you to tell the King that he was greedy, ungrateful, unjust, an adulterer and a murderer? How do you think that confrontation would go?

    4. Read Matthew 21:28-30. Which son do you think did the will of his father?

    5. Read Matthew 21:31. Jesus asks the same question I just asked you. (I got the question from Him.) What is the purpose of the story and the question? (It is to convict the people about the difference between words and actions.)

      1. Do you truly believe what you just answered? If so, what does this say about righteousness by faith? (It says a great deal. We are saved by faith, not by works, but our works reveal our faith. See James 2:14-24.)

    6. Let's look at this a little more deeply. Read Matthew 21:31-32. The identity of the audience is found in Matthew 21:23. They are the chief priests and elders. Jesus unfavorably compares their works to those of prostitutes and tax collectors. What kind of works could Jesus possibly be talking about? ("Works" is a very broad term. The work of the son was to obey the call of the father. The work of the prostitutes and tax collectors was to obey the call of God. They believed John and repented. Some would say that responding and repenting was only faith and not works.)

      1. What message did Jesus want to convey to the religious leaders? (That the tax collectors and prostitutes were ahead of them in their spiritual journey.)

        1. What if Jesus just said that? How would that go over? (Just like with King David and the prophet Nathan, we see that telling a story makes it easier to speak truth to power. The target of the rebuke agrees with the point before becoming defensive.)

  3. Storytelling and Truth

    1. Read Luke 14:1-4. Why do you think Jesus' listeners did not respond?

    2. Read Luke 14:5-6. After hearing Jesus' story (or, at least His analogy), why did Jesus' listeners not respond? Explain what you guess was their thought process. (They knew it was wrong to work on Sabbath. They also knew that they would rescue their son or animal on Sabbath. Thus, there was a conflict in their minds that prevented them from immediately responding.)

      1. What would you answer? (The story shows us that the correct answer is that we should do good on the Sabbath.)

      2. If you think about this, something very odd is taking place. Why should a person's views about rescuing an animal have anything to do with God's view of the Sabbath? Why is right behavior defined by what we would naturally do for an animal or our child?

    3. Read Luke 14:16-23. We recognize this as a parable that teaches us about salvation. What motivates the decisions of the man preparing the banquet? (Anger.)

      1. Let me ask you again, why is truth about salvation defined by the anger of the host of the banquet? (We are bumping into a profound truth. God is the Creator of the universe. He created the rules of the universe. Although we are scarred by sin and have evil propensities, we have in us an understanding of truth. The fact that common, every-day stories reflect the teachings of the Bible proves the truth of Christianity and tends to prove the existence of God. In some sense it is the grand unified theory of the universe!)

  4. Storytelling and Kingdom Secrets

    1. We have discussed how stories keep our attention, disarm our defenses and help us to remember and understand lessons. Let's look at another aspect of storytelling. Read Mark 4:10-12. Are parables like a secret handshake - only insiders understand it? Or, is the only valid point the one we discussed before - that stories help us to pay attention?

      1. Look again at Mark 4:12. Why would Jesus want to make it difficult for someone to repent and be forgiven? (That cannot be Jesus' meaning for it is contrary to the whole tenor of the Bible. Instead, I think Jesus is teaching us that people who do not seek the truth will miss the point of the parable. However, those who want to know truth will focus on the story, be diligent in their study, and learn the deeper truth in a way not easily forgotten.)

    2. Friend, have you read through the gospels and studied the parables of Jesus? If not, why not start reading today so that you will be a gospel insider? Why not study to open the truths of the Bible in such a way that you are not likely to forget?

  5. Next week: Discipleship and Prayer.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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