Sunday, 16 July 2017

The Power of Storytelling by Lynda Alsford

I love the way Jesus spoke in parables. There is something about story telling that makes information come alive. Most young people seem to love hearing stories being read to them. I remember my younger sister knew all the Mister Men stories off by heart by the age of three. I can remember reading her one of them one night. I paraphrased one page rather than reading exactly what was written on the page. She corrected me immediately even though she had not learned to read by then.  She remembered every word exactly as it was written. She loved having people read the stories to her. Stories are easy to remember. People remember stories.

Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash
Jesus used story telling to speak to the crowds. He used illustrations from everyday life, speaking in Aramaic, the language of the people. He was the master of story telling.  I have never written fiction, only autobiographical books. I would love to be able to write a novel one day. A well told story is very powerful in communicating information.  
One thing that puzzled me is Jesus’ reply to a question he was asked about why he used parables to speak to the people.  In Matthew 13:10-15

“Jesus’ disciples came and said to him, “Why do you use parables when you speak to the crowds?”
11 Jesus replied, “Because they haven’t received the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but you have. 12 For those who have will receive more and they will have more than enough. But as for those who don’t have, even the little they have will be taken away from them. 13 This is why I speak to the crowds in parables: although they see, they don’t really see; and although they hear, they don’t really hear or understand.14 What Isaiah prophesied has become completely true for them:
You will hear, to be sure, but never understand; 
        and you will certainly see but never recognize what you are seeing.
15     For this people’s senses have become calloused, 
        and they’ve become hard of hearing, 
        and they’ve shut their eyes 
            so that they won’t see with their eyes 
            or hear with their ears 
            or understand with their minds, 
                and change their hearts and lives that I may heal them.

For years, I couldn’t understand why he spoke in parables rather than being direct. The quote from Isaiah implied to me that he didn’t want them to understand. But I know now that is not why. By using storytelling the onus is on us, the listeners, to hear the message. If we really want to hear from God we will listen with open ears, asking God to help us understand. But if someone doesn’t really want to know God the story will pass over them without them understanding it. We listen to stories with our hearts. Maybe that is another reason why Jesus used story. Those whose hearts are turned to Him will hear what Jesus is saying.  Praise God for the power of story telling.

Lynda Alsford is a sea loving, cat loving GP administrator and writes in her spare time. She has written two books, He Never Let Go describes her journey through a major crisis of faith whilst working as an evangelist at a lively Church in Chiswick, West London. Being Known describes how God set her free from food addiction. Both books are available in paperback and on kindle on  and She writes a newsletter called Seeking the Healer, in which she shares the spiritual insights she has gained on her journey. When she finally starts her blog, it will also be called Seeking the Healer and you can find out more about both at


  1. Interesting that the passage you quote was omitted from today's Gospel reading. I recently discovered that certain passages are completely missed out in some translations (and I don't mean the Apocrypha).I thought I was reading a faulty Bible, but compared it with other translations and discovered a footnote about what was and wasn't included in ancient texts. The RSV I was looking at did not include John 7:53-8:11. I felt rather like your little sister, Lynda, complaining about the story being different! Sue

    1. I didn't know that. I'll look more into it. Fascinating.

  2. I have always loved history but not the dry accumulation and parroting of facts or the erudite political debates through the centuries: I love the stories and the characters. Why spoil a good story with the truth? - I guess that's my maxim.