Matthew – Fulfilled.
It was one of my first times to “preach” as a school teacher. I was to deliver a message to a room full of preachers and scholars. Challenging and a bit overwhelmed, I prayed and prepared and then prayed more. When I got up to deliver what I thought God had prepared my heart and mind to say, stories of my own life popped in and out of God’s Story of redemption and love. It dawned on me that it was the storytelling that made those listening ears perk up. Their eyes became more intense with each story. It was the honest stories that bonded God’s message to our failing humaness and gave hope to others seeking Him. When I saw that happen, I knew the Holy Spirit working in me knew exactly what the people needed to hear.
I was affirmed by almost every real preacher in the room except one who told me, “you tell too many stories.” Mm, I think Jesus was a storyteller. Let’s take a look at how He related to those whose hearts needed Him. It began on the beach. (This is where I am today, so I love that!) Crowds gathered so Jesus had to move from the beach to a boat, using it as a pulpit. Then he told stories. And guess what? Even Jesus was approaced later by his disciples who asked, “Why tell stories?” He told them why…listen, really listen…
Matthew 13, The Message
A Harvest Story
13 1-3 At about that same time Jesus left the house and sat on the beach. In no time at all a crowd gathered along the shoreline, forcing him to get into a boat. Using the boat as a pulpit, he addressed his congregation, telling stories.
3-8 “What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.
9 “Are you listening to this? Really listening?”
Why Tell Stories?
10 The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?”
11-15 He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. I don’t want Isaiah’s forecast repeated all over again:
Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing.
Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing.
The people are blockheads!
They stick their fingers in their ears
so they won’t have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut
so they won’t have to look,
so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face
and let me heal them.
16-17 “But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance.
The Meaning of the Harvest Story
18-19 “Study this story of the farmer planting seed. When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road.
20-21 “The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.
22 “The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it.
23 “The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.”
24-26 He told another story. “God’s kingdom is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. That night, while his hired men were asleep, his enemy sowed thistles all through the wheat and slipped away before dawn. When the first green shoots appeared and the grain began to form, the thistles showed up, too.
27 “The farmhands came to the farmer and said, ‘Master, that was clean seed you planted, wasn’t it? Where did these thistles come from?’
28 “He answered, ‘Some enemy did this.’
“The farmhands asked, ‘Should we weed out the thistles?’
29-30 “He said, ‘No, if you weed the thistles, you’ll pull up the wheat, too. Let them grow together until harvest time. Then I’ll instruct the harvesters to pull up the thistles and tie them in bundles for the fire, then gather the wheat and put it in the barn.’”
31-32 Another story. “God’s kingdom is like a pine nut that a farmer plants. It is quite small as seeds go, but in the course of years it grows into a huge pine tree, and eagles build nests in it.”
33 Another story. “God’s kingdom is like yeast that a woman works into the dough for dozens of loaves of barley bread—and waits while the dough rises.”
34-35 All Jesus did that day was tell stories—a long storytelling afternoon. His storytelling fulfilled the prophecy:
I will open my mouth and tell stories;
I will bring out into the open
things hidden since the world’s first day.
Jesus, the Master Teacher and Storyteller, teaches us:
–Tell life stories that relate to your audience. Explain the meaning always.
–Start with where they are and build on that knowledge, taking them a bit farther because of your own life experience.
–Never tell about a life situation you are still going through for the outcome has not yet occured for you to tell. Use only what God has taught you and led you through.
–Tell stories that will relate to the whole crowd, not an inside story that will only draw the attention of a few.
–Tell stories that end with life lessons that will give hope and joy because of God’s grace, mercy and ulitmate redemption because of Jesus Christ’s work on the cross.
–All our stories point the way to Christ, not to us.
–Jesus came to show us God and how God works. Do that!
How has God help you? Tell someone about it. God’s work in your life may ready the heart of someone seeking and feels lost in worldly thinking and behaving.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for telling stories and leading us to your Truth in this way. We glorify your Name and praise You for teaching us through all of life’s situations and circumstances. I’m listening, Lord…really listening. Speak to my heart today for I am ready.
In Jesus Name, Amen