“Jesus’ parables are among the best known and most influential stories in the world. Even if people know nothing of Jesus, they either know about his stories or have encountered their impact in expressions like ‘prodigal’ or ‘good Samaritan.’ The importance of the parables of Jesus can hardly be overestimated. At no point are the vitality, relevance, and usefulness of the teaching of Jesus so clear as in his parables.
Jesus was the master creator of story, and nothing is so attractive or so compelling as a good story. Children (and adults) do not say, ‘Tell me some facts’; they want a story. Stories are inherently interesting. Discourse we tolerate; to story we attend. Story entertains, informs, involves, motivates, authenticates, and mirrors existence. By creating a narrative world, stories establish an unreal, controlled universe. The author abducts us and– almost god-like– tells us what reality exists in this narrative world, what happens, and why.
Stories are one of the few places that allow us to see reality, at least the reality the author creates. There, to a degree we cannot do in real life, we can discern motives, keep score, know who won, and what success and failure look like. Life on the outside virtually stops; we are taken up in the story. The storyteller is in control so that we are forced to see from new angles and so that the message cannot be easily evaded.
Hearers become willing accomplices, even if the message is hostile. From this ‘other world’ we are invited to understand, evaluate, and, hopefully, redirect our lives. We learn most easily in the abstract. In teaching and preaching the shortcut is to repeat the abstract idea we already know, forgetting that others still need to learn in the concrete. We would do better, at least frequently, to clothe the abstract in concrete experience and story, just as Jesus did.”
–Klyne Snodgrass, Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 1-2.