Jesus told stories. Almost everyone who knows anything about Jesus, knows that he told stories. And I’m guessing that there are a number of stories that people know without knowing that Jesus told them.
But I don’t think that he was a storyteller.
Storytellers have conventions and associations. Storytellers work on their stories, carefully crafting both the story and the telling. Storytellers have accomplished their work when they have effectively told the story.
Think about Uncle Ed and Uncle Dubois trading stories after Sunday dinner. The kids sit around and listen. Everyone has heard the story a hundred times, but the punchline still makes everyone bust out laughing.
But Jesus wasn’t a storyteller, not like that. Every time he told a story, he was looking past the story to some truth, some understanding. If it stopped with, “what a nice story about that man and his two boys. I’m just so glad the younger son came home” the point was missed.
I think he was more of a surgeon, using the story scalpel to cut through thick skins and layers of fat, removing tumors sucking life from lungs. I think he was a farmer, planting simple seeds that grow deeply and change everything. He was a rabbi, using stories to teach.
He can tell a story that makes part of his audience want to kill him and another part want to follow him to death.
Because Jesus wasn’t fundamentally concerned with getting the story right. He was more concerned with getting the people right. And the stories were tools that he used.
We are tempted, I think, from time to time, to focus on all the stories without stopping to listen to them. Not as nice stories, but as dynamite for our status quo wrapped in narrative rather than rules.