Jesus has been called the master storyteller, and with good reason. His parables were compelling and oh-so-relatable. His illustrations from daily life immediately drew people in.
I always imagined He must have used humor and dramatic flourishes when He was telling His stories. Sometimes I even pictured Him singing parts of the lesson.
Think about it. The people were so enthralled, they crowded around Him constantly to hear more. Would they have done that for a dry lecture in the hot sun, surrounded by other sweaty humans? I didn’t think so.
And then I went to Alaska.
It’s been some years now since my daughter and I took this trip. We joined my parents for a cruise organized by our denomination down the Inside Passage from Seward to Ketchikan. The scenery was spectacular, of course, and the weather unseasonably perfect.
Frankly, as I stood on the deck of the ship, I fully expected to see Jesus return at any moment through those amazing cloud formations.
Yet there was another aspect of that week-long cruise that stunned and delighted me even more than my surroundings.
Twice a day, our group met for corporate worship followed by a brief message from a well-known Christian pastor/author. It was all very simple. This speaker was something of a celebrity in church circles back then, but let me tell you, he was not a glitzy, polished preacher type. He was even a little frumpy (in an endearing sort of way). Point is, there was no humor or drama, no flashing lights or sound effects, and he certainly didn’t sing.
As my mother put it, he just stood up there “flat-footed” and spoke the truth of God right from the Bible.
This might sound crazy to you, but it was so compelling, there could have been whales breaching right next to the ship and glaciers calving in full view. Why, a family of otters could have been doing a synchronized swimming routine just off the bow HOLDING HANDS, and I would have gladly missed them.
You know why?
Because God had obviously prepared my heart not just for the beauty of Alaska but for a transformation in my relationship with Him. I couldn’t get enough of the insights He was delivering specifically to ME through this humble messenger. I just wanted to hear more and more.
It occurred to me then and I believe it even more today: If the truth could be this captivating when delivered in a no-frills fashion by a simple Christian preacher, what would it be like to sit at the feet of Jesus Himself?
Yes, Jesus was a master storyteller and people were certainly fascinated by His parables, but His listeners sometimes didn’t “get it”. They scratched their heads and wondered what in the world He meant. Even His closest followers sometimes were left confused (you and I probably would have been, too).
And what did He do? He just kept teaching them “as much as they could understand” and rather than wrap things up neatly with a bow, He would often conclude the parable with “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Here’s the part I love: “But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.”
The disciples knew there was more to His message than just an entertaining story. They couldn’t wait to gather around Him in private, with open hearts and minds, to learn His underlying meaning. Dancing otters couldn’t have kept them away, either.
I get that. Sometimes I just want to be alone with Jesus and have Him “explain everything”, don’t you? I don’t need a full-on theatrical production; flat-footed is fine. The message itself is more than enough. And if He chooses to skip the explanations and just let me enjoy His presence, that, too, is a gift. I want to be one with “ears to hear” and I want to sit with Him and drink it all in.
He’s Jesus. He can bring the whales back around any time (and in fact, He did.)
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