“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.”— Steve Jobs.

Storytelling is the oldest tool of influence in human history. It has the power to cut through and be listened to. Stories help create or reframe/shift a person’s perspective. Stories linger around so their power of influence stays on long-after rational facts are forgotten.

Jesus the storyteller

I have recently come to appreciate at a deeper level that Jesus was the  master-storyteller of Emmanuel, the God who is with us in all things, … even death.

Jesus had no well-financed public relations team. He did not need Powerpoint, Facebook, or Twitter. Jesus basically told, and sometimes acted out his stories.  He washed the feet of his disciples to help them understand what it meant to brothers and sisters.

He told stories they could relate to. The stories illustrated the Good News of a kingdom unlike any kingdom they had ever experienced. (Beyond Waving Palm Branches) He told stories of a God who was not interested in sacrifices. He told the story of how an enemy proved himself to be a neighbor to someone who had been beaten in robbed. He even tailored his stories about seeking this kingdom to the daily lives of men searching for lost sheep and women searching for a lost coin.

The evangelists as storytellers

Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John learned to use stories as well. They used the Jesus stories. They chose and adapted his stories to what was important in the life of the ordinary people they were writing to.

Matthew’s main concern is to present Jesus as a teacher even greater than Moses.

Luke presents Jesus as the prophet who has come to suffer for His people. He is a healer and a friend to tax collectors. He has come to save the lost and the outcast. He is the Servant from Isaiah, who brings comfort to the suffering and oppressed.

For John, Jesus is the Word made flesh. He is the Son of God and the one who reveals the Father

It is only recently that I have come to appreciate how these stories were used to address the growing tensions between Christians and Jews.  By the time Luke composed his work, tension was breaking into open (Acts of the Apostles – Prequel to Today’s Polarization)

The summer of Mark

All this was triggered by the realization that this is the summer of Mark. This is Year B in the three-year cycle of Sunday Gospels. With the exception of the seasons of Christmas and Easter the readings have been taken from Mark.

This past Easter season I was amazed at how much I had never appreciated about Luke’s Acts of the Apostles as the follow-up to his gospel. (Link) I never appreciated why and how Luke strung the stories together. I had not seen the forest because I was focusing on the trees.

Traditionally, Mark’s gospel is said to have been written shortly before A.D. 70 in Rome.

Gentile Christians were facing impending persecution and destruction loomed over Jerusalem. His audience seems to have been Gentile, unfamiliar with Jewish customs (hence Mk 7:34, 11).

Mark’s gospel encouraged  these Christians to stand faithful in the face of persecution (Mk 13:913),  and continue with the proclamation of the gospel begun in Galilee (Mk 13:10; 14:9).

Some things to consider

  • How does Mark use the story of Jesus and Jesus’ stories to strengthen this community?
  • What does the Gospel of Mark underline for us in our world?

Click below of an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk