Do you like to tell stories?
The gospel of Mark tells us Jesus was “never without a story when he spoke.” If the listener’s heart was like good soil, (if they could not only hear but also truly listen) the seeds of those stories would go down deep inside, be protected, nourished, then sprout roots, dig in, hold on, and grow — bearing fruit (insight, understanding, evidence of the seed in the soil).
The stories meant to teach would effectively result in learning.
And I’ve liked this teaching of Jesus for a long time —
because I like stories, and because these “teaching” stories — or parables — are like knots to untangle, puzzles to solve.
This kind of story is safe.
But it’s not Jesus’ way to let us play it safe.
He won’t let us just get by telling only these safe, two-dimensional, far-removed-from-us parables about made-up people.
Next Mark tells of the woman who had been hemorrhaging, who believed that Jesus could heal her if only she came close enough to him.
When Jesus felt his power leave him and go into this woman as she touched his garment, he asked, “Who touched me?”
Which is an odd question from Jesus, who knew everything, and who certainly knew this, too.
His question was her prompt.
He was calling her out.
He drew her out, asked her to tell her story. To speak words aloud, to share them with the crowd, to scatter her words like seeds.
When she stepped forward and spoke up, the gospel of Mark tells us that she “stepped up in fear and trembling…” which makes sense, this story not being an easy one to tell. It would risk everything — others’ opinions of her, their judgment of her circumstances, the security of secrecy and the protection of pretense.
To tell her story would be to confess her sickness, to lay bear her need, and to acknowledge her inability to heal herself.
She “knelt before him” — in the humbling posture of submission, “and gave him the whole story.”
Not a parable. Her story.
But look closely at what Jesus asked. He wasn’t asking her to tell the story all about her weakness, brokenness, and shame. No — the question Jesus asked drew out the story about how she believed he could heal her, how she followed and pushed her way toward him, how she stretched out to touch him, believing that what he said was true and acting on that belief.
Everywhere I go, I’m never without a story.
And in obedient submission, I want to be faithful to tell the risky and important stories — to answer his question, “Who touched me?” — to tell the stories about the times in my life when I was at the end of myself, when I was broken but believed, when I saw his power and grabbed onto his promises, and acted on that belief. The stories about the times I reached out to touch him, the times I turned my heart toward him in my anguish, the times I cried out to him to save me, to hold me, to heal me, because I knew that nothing else in the world could.
And the most important part of these stories: his faithfulness to turn to me and see me. His faithfulness to heal me, restore me , help me, rescue me, and save me.
And in those blessed times when my stories land on the soil of a ready heart, my prayer is: take the seed of this story, push it down inside to be protected and nourished and to develop roots and grow. The seed in the good soil bears fruit.