Stories are important. We love to hear them. We love to listen to people who are good at telling them. A great story can teach us without us realising we’re learning; make us think more deeply about an issue we thought we had got sorted; make us laugh; make us cry. Hearing the same stories over and over again can be a favourite part of our family heritage and tradition, especially if they tell us more about the people and situations around us and help us to understand them better.
Jesus was a master storyteller. He taught profound truths about the Kingdom of God using stories set in situations very familiar to his audience, featuring characters everyone could recognise, from dishonest tax collectors and rich businessmen, to shepherds, housewives and widows.
Over the last few days I’ve been studying the episode recorded in John’s gospel about Jesus healing a blind man (you can read the whole story in John 9). This man had been blind from birth, and was a familiar sight begging outside the synagogue. When Jesus restored his sight, this understandably caused quite a stir amongst the man’s friends and neighbours- and the religious authorities, too. They all wanted to know what had happened.
And what did the man do? He told his story. He told it just as it had happened; no embellishments, no fancy words, no overplaying his role, just telling those around him exactly what Jesus had done for him:
His neighbours and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!”
But the beggar kept saying, “Yes, I am the same one!”
They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?”
He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see!”
He stuck to the truth as he understood it when questioned by the religious leaders, too:
So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.”
“I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”
“But what did he do?” they asked. “How did he heal you?”
“Look!” the man exclaimed. “I told you once. Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
I believe that all Christians are called to do the same. We may not all be great theologians, or have any great new insights, or be skilled in apologetics or preaching. But all those who have responded to Jesus, who do life with Him, who call Him their Saviour and friend, have a story to tell. It may be a dramatic testimony of healing or rescue. For most of us it will be less spectacular, but just as real. Stories of hope where there was previously despair; acceptance where before there was loneliness and rejection; forgiveness when there had been guilt; love and peace where there was fear. We are called to share our stories with those around us, to talk about what we know to be true. The Bible tells us that we need to
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
1 Peter 3:15
The world around us needs to hear a message of hope. So let’s not be afraid to tell our stories. To say yes, Jesus is real, and this is how I know. This is what He’s done in my life. Who knows who may be waiting to hear it, whose own story might be changed forever if only we are brave enough to share ours.