How Did Jesus use Story and the Arts in His Ministry

I recently heard a sermon from where the pastor used his NIV study Bible to illustrate how feast-of-tabernaclesJesus was excellent at using parables as  a means to communicate the truth in a way that was interesting and significant. For example if we look at the book of John in the New Testament we can see how Jesus used parable to communicate a truth to the people of the time. If we look at John 7. Specifically John 6 and 7.

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

John 6:35-40 NIV


37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”[c] 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”

41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.”

Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

John 7:37-44 NIV

This is a message Jesus delivers during the Feast of Tabernacles, or called the Feast of Booths. It is a Jewish holiday that is still carried out to this day among Jewish people. It was originally a pilgrimage event where all Jewish people in Biblical times would travel back to the temple. The holiday has two meanings. The first, is that it marks the end of the harvest season and is chance to celebrate the provision from the land. A deeper meaning is remembering the liberation from the Egyptian people during the Exodus. It is a seven day celebration with each day calling for prayers of thanksgiving and remembrance.

What is interesting and significant here is that Jesus has made a point prior to this festival to call himself the “Bread of Life” and a form of “living water”. It seems that Jesus has used a cultural event and the use of parable to communicate a truth that would have great significance to the Jewish people of His time. That at the end of the ceremony where people would be thinking about their escape from slavery and celebrating the end of their hard season of working the land, Jesus tells them that he is the bread of life, and living water. This would have made a deep impact and was a great way to communicate truth in a manner that works for the society.


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Why Story Telling is Important

Story is a powerful thing. Story Telling

It has the power to help us engage with the world in a way we normally choose not to. It activates our mind, senses and imagination. We are all the better for it when we let ourselves be exposed to the power of story. When you think back in time, we as a species have been using the arts to communicate story before the majority of people were able to read. Cavemen painted pictures in caves, Orthodox churches used pictures in the stained glass to communicate the gospel, and artists everywhere have been using different modes of art to tell their story. When we hear or experience a story we are able to grow as an individual and leave the story a changed person. Here are some ways that story impacts us:

It can cut through our established biases – Listening to a story can be a way for you to actually hear a perspective, thought, idea or belief that you may normally be closed off to. Hearing story can push through all of those biases and judgement you hold and expose you to a new way of seeing things.

It is memorable – Story has the ability to have a lasting impression on us. How many of use remember a story a family member of friend told you that you can still recall today? I know I have many moments where I recall a story that is meaningful to me. The stories we tell and the ones we listen to have a way of sticking around in our mind and lasting longer than just a lecture or sermon that we have heard.

It can persuade without being preachy – Story is powerful tool to help share your opinion, belief or perspective and really make an impact on someone without coming across as a salesman or a preacher. This is a great way for pastors, theater directors, and artists everywhere can use because it is such a powerful mode of communication.

It engages the whole mind – According to the New York Times “What scientists have come to realize in the last few years is that narratives activate many other parts of our brains as well, suggesting why the experience of reading can feel so alive. Words like “lavender,” “cinnamon” and “soap,” for example, elicit a response not only from the language-processing areas of our brains, but also those devoted to dealing with smells.” It seems that story has the ability to help our whole brain, from the sensory center, to your processing center to be emerged in the story itself. This is a powerful tool that we get to interact to learn and grow from. 


Photo Credit – Cambridge Sustainable Food