Whether they are read in a book, viewed on a screen, or told over a cup of coffee, stories help us make sense of the world around us. We rely on stories to help us convey information, transmit our values, or share our history. In fact, of all the forms of communication available to us as human beings, a good story might be the most powerful because of its effectiveness.
Why do stories resonate with us so strongly?
Is it because they tap into our emotions and experiences?
Is it because they present information in a way that engages our senses?
Or is it because we have an instinct that our lives are part of a larger story being written across time?
Tale As Old As Time
The Bible begins with a story: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” What we learn from there is nothing short of amazing. The story components of the Bible are categorized as narrative. The first book of the Bible, Genesis, is a narrative of the history of creation and humanity’s entrance into the world and follows people who walked with God and found his favor.
The Bible’s second book, Exodus, is a narrative of how God delivered his chosen people, Israel, from their misery as slaves in Egypt. We pick up with the narrative of Israel as a separate nation in Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.
Each book is filled with stories, but each of those stories is part of a much larger narrative: the rescue of God’s wayward people and their restoration back to Him. This theme repeats over and over again, not simply because God’s people were hard-headed (though that is true), but because that is the story of humanity across time.
Over and over again, humanity needs to be rescued and restored, until a moment in history when the narrative gets a rewrite.
The Fresh Prince of Peace
Remember the TV show “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”? Remember how the show’s theme song started? Now this is a story all about how / My life got flipped, turned upside down…
That’s basically the same idea as the books that begin the New Testament; they tell the story of how God flipped the script on the Old Testament through His Son, Jesus Christ.
The life of Jesus is recorded in four books that are collectively known as The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). These books, along with the book of Acts, form the early narrative of the Church. They record Jesus’ life and teaching in great (but not exhaustive) detail.
Like the Old Testament narratives, the point isn’t to give a blow-by-blow account of what happened, but to tell a larger, cohesive story that communicates truth. While the Gospels are factually accurate, and have withstood generations of critics attempting to prove otherwise, each one was written with a specific audience in mind.
Think of it this way – American history reads a lot differently in America than it does in England. So while the events recorded are the same, the perspective of those events will be different. The same is true of the Gospels – while the events and central teachings are the same, the perspective presented in each book is different.
Matthew wrote for a Jewish audience, to help convince them that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
It’s believed that Mark wrote the life of Jesus for Greek-speaking Christians, as seen through the eyes of Peter.
Luke was a doctor and careful historian who wrote for a Greek patron that was interested in the story of Jesus.
John wrote his Gospel with the idea of presenting Jesus as the divine Son of God.
Remember the story from the Old Testament? How God’s people constantly needed rescue and restoration? That’s the story of the Gospels – except that in Jesus Christ, there would be no more need for rescue or restoration. In Him, anyone who would believe and accept Christ as God’s Son would be permanently rescued and restored to God. That’s the Good News—which is what the word Gospel means!
No more falling away. No more separation. The narrative of human history, brought to fulfillment in Jesus Himself. You, your family, your friends, your neighbors, even that guy sneaking 12 items in the 10 items or less grocery line…everyone has the opportunity to experience God’s rescue and restoration, to live out the beauty of God’s completed work.
To borrow from Eugene Peterson, this is the story we find ourselves in. And it’s glorious.