of sheep and city buses


“Once upon a time, there was a particular nitwitted sheep who, though he fit in quite well with all the rest, became so utterly distracted with the fine green grass he was eating, that he wandered . . . and wandered . . . until he crossed a strange path into an unknown territory . . .”

I’ve never cared much for fiction, but the world of parables is a fascinating world if there ever was one.

Few ideas in this post are my own. But I wish to share them with you because I have seen firsthand how much fun is to be had in the process of examining, deciphering, and retelling the stories Jesus told.

Not a storyteller? Me neither, as you can see from the relaying of my eloquent sheep saga.

That’s okay. The point is to ponder the words of Jesus and to pass along His tales.

Why did Jesus speak in parables? And why did he use parables to hide the truth from some and to reveal the truth to others?

That’s another topic for another day.

For now, I have a few suggestions and fun tips to get you knowing the parables, thinking on them, sharing them with others, and employing them to expose people to the Word.

1. Become a parable expert.

How many of the 40+ parables can you recall?

How well do you know the narrative?

The next time you enjoy an evening with friends or a long road-trip with family, initiate a little friendly competition and see how many of Jesus’ parables you can recall and retell. Aim for accuracy and make an effort to remember Jesus’ explanation or point regarding each one as well.

2. Pick one parable and study it with a friend.

Parables are tricky, I would have you know. Which makes them such a blast to unlock. Help yourself to a few brainstorm sessions to attempt to figure out what’s really taking place and what each part and character symbolizes. There’s some pretty amazing stuff in there that takes a bit of decoding. Don’t forget your magnifying glass and colored pencils.

3. Use your best storytelling skills.

And don’t follow my example, because I have much to learn.

The challenge is to be creative and to get into the story. Set it up with background, context, or scenery. Role-play. Use facial expressions, hand motions, dramatic pauses, sound effects. The possibilities are endless.

Tell the story as if you were there, and you saw it yourself, and no one else knows what you’re talking about. Animation. Intensity. Emotion.

Craft the account in such a way that the main point is clear, gripping, and thought-provoking.

And don’t be afraid to embellish or improvise the storyline itself.

Parables aren’t factual. They’re fictional illustrations with weighty implications.

Jesus used these stories to teach, to reveal, and to conceal. He entered the culture of the day, by way of these striking narratives, to pierce and to confound.

I’m pretty well taken by the idea of passing along the tradition.

4. Take His stories to the world.

Jesus told these stories to anyone and everyone.

The way I see it, the stories Jesus told are a ready-made method to get the truth to others.

Find yourself in a public setting where you and a friend can inconspicuously start telling random stories to each other?

“Hey, wanna hear a story?”
“Okay . . . there was this man who had two sons. One son decided one day that he wasn’t gonna wait for his dad to die to get the inheritance he deserved . . .”

“Wow, that was an interesting story. It’s amazing that the father had that much love for the son even though the son messed up badly.”
“Yeah, pretty awesome example of forgiveness, if you ask me.”
“Okay, my turn. This story is about two guys also. These two guys went to church to pray one day. The one guy walked in with his nose in the air, and the other guy walked in with his head so low you couldn’t tell who he was . . .”


I speak from experience when I say an afternoon well-spent is with a friend or two on a city bus telling stories about coins, wedding feasts, and this foolish architect who built a house on sand right before a regular monsoon.

You never know what might happen. Seemingly bored and hopeless teenagers might listen in with the one ear that’s not plugged. Perfect strangers might chime in and share their own story or ask a question. Someone might even become so curious as to strike up a conversation, that leads to future conversations, that leads to gospel conversations. And this was the lady sitting behind you who surely couldn’t hear anything you were saying because you chose the seat directly above the bus’ roaring engine.

 “. . . A few hours and a highly satisfying nap later, the thought occurred to this brilliant, fluffy creature – ‘Where in the world am I?’ As darkness fell, and when all hope seemed lost, the poor, distressed sheep had a hard time shutting out the sound of his name being called. And then he recognized the Voice. And he realized that he hadn’t seen the other 99-some-odd sheep for quite awhile. He must have wandered far. But not too far from the love of the Shepherd.”

The truth is in Jesus and in the words He spoke.

People need the truth. And people always love a story.

[image credit: flickr.com, geograph.org.uk, landscape-photo.net, & journeyoftheword.com]

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