He was a great storyteller. People may have called him a teacher, but he taught with stories. He told us stories about beggars and kings, farmers and fields, fish and fisherman and brides and grooms.
Sometimes the meaning was obvious. Like the story he told about the man who was forgiven the great debt but wouldn’t forgive the little debt that was owed to him. Everybody got it, not everybody liked it, but everybody got it.
There were other stories that he had to explain and he did, and stories that he should have explained but didn’t.
When someone asked him a question, more times than not he answered with the word, “Let me tell you a story.”
I remember once, one of the religious leaders came to him and demanded to know what he had to do to live forever.
“Have you read the law?” Jesus asked.
“Of course I’ve read the law, don’t be like that.”
“Well if you’ve read it you know what you need to do. What does it say? Boil it down for me, what is the essence of the Law?”
“Fine, it tells us to love God with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our strength and all of our minds.”
“And?” There was a pause.
“And . . . we are supposed to love our neighbor as ourselves.”
“Exactly, see you already knew the answer, love God love others, do that and you will have found the answer to your question.”
Apparently, that wasn’t the answer the man was looking for, “But who’s my neighbor? It is just my next-door neighbor, or all those who live in my neighborhood?”
With a smile, Jesus said, “Let me tell you a story: One day a Jewish man was taking a trip, his plan was to walk from Jerusalem to Jericho. You know the road, it seems like it’s all downhill and when he was part way along a group of thugs jumped him, beat him up and robbed him.
“They took everything he had and left him naked and dying alone on the side of the road.
“It wasn’t long and a priest happened along, he saw the man lying there, but simply crossed over to the other side and pretended he didn’t see him. Like you did with the beggar you saw on your way here.”
The look on the man’s face gave away the truth.
“Apparently he wasn’t your neighbor. But, back to the story, not long after the priest had gone by another man happened along. This time it was a Levite, one of those who helps in the temple. He at least stopped and looked at the man, but must have decided there was nothing he could do, or at least nothing he was willing to do, so he kept on going.
“It was looking pretty bleak for our traveller, especially since the next person to come along was a Samaritan. And you know, as much as anyone, that there’s no love lost between the Jews and Samaritans.
“But, when the Samaritan saw what had happened to the man, his heart broke. He got down off his donkey, cleaned the man up using the olive oil and wine he had in his bags and got him dressed in the extra robe he had packed for his trip. Finally, he got the traveller up on his donkey and led the man to the closest inn. They were able to get a room and the Samaritan spent the night nursing the stranger until he was sure that it would be safe to leave him.
“The next morning, the Samaritan went to the innkeeper and paid for the man’s lodging and meals for a few more days and assured the innkeeper if the bill was more that he would settle up on his way back from his trip.
“So, which of the three, the priest, the Levite or the Samaritan proved himself to be a neighbor to the man who was attacked and robbed?”
Personally, I thought the answer was pretty obvious, but the question wasn’t directed to me.
Finally, almost reluctantly the religious leader answered, “The Samaritan?”
“See,” Jesus said, “That wasn’t so hard. Treat people like that and you’ll be fine.