Bible stories first came alive for me in Summer Bible School at Souderton Mennonite Church. The Grade 1 curriculum, “Stories about Jesus,” especially engaged me.
I loved the coloured pictures and the smell of the glue as we pasted them into our books. I remember a sick girl lying in a bed. There was a slot in the bed so you could pull her out when Jesus healed her. I was a sucker for such devices….
This week, I started gathering a list of my favorite stories of Jesus – ones that return frequently to nourish and sometimes challenge my spirit. Their significance stems from a particular struggle, or from intensive study, or from praying with the text while on retreat.
Here are my Top Five stories of Jesus as a healer and as a teller of parables – for this week. Next week, or a year from now, the list could be different…
Three Stories about Jesus as Healer
- The healing of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar (Mark 10: 46-52).
I memorized this story in a workshop with the Network of Biblical Storytellers, founded by Tom Boomershine. The story is so simple and compressed. People tell Bartimaeus to shut up when he shouts to attract Jesus’ attention. But Jesus notices him and inquires, “What do you want me to do for you?” He responds, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus heals him with the words, “Go, your faith has made you well.” I love that Bartimaeus doesn’t go. Rather, he follows Jesus “on the way.”
- A man born blind receives his sight (John 9: 1-41).
In contrast to the simplicity of Bartimaeus, I love the complexity of this story from the Gospel of John. I enjoyed studying it at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in 1982 with Prof. Howard Charles. In a multi-layered narrative with many characters and a fair bit of humour, the man receives physical sight while his detractors move further into spiritual blindness.
- The bent-over woman (Luke 13: 10-17)
In this little-known story, Jesus has compassion on a “woman with a spirit that had crippled her for 18 years.” He heals her in the synagogue on the Sabbath, creating quite a kerfuffle with the religious leaders.
I remember a service where a friend and I walked down the aisle of a church bent over from the weight of things we carried in a backpack. What if we could all leave our heavy backpacks here, I asked in my sermon, rather than taking them home with us again? What if our congregation would become a healing place?
Two Stories Jesus Told
- The Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14: 15-24)
Of all Jesus’ parables, this one intrigues me most. It first attracted my attention through the song, I cannot come to the banquet, popularized by the Medical Mission Sisters. In seminary I wrote a major paper on it. I’ve preached it repeatedly, sometimes putting it in the context of a backyard barbeque. At my home church in Pennsylvania, the current pulpit is about where the back steps of my childhood house were located. So when I preached this parable there, I included the story of my mother feeding a homeless man on our back steps.
The parable paints such a vivid picture of Jesus’ welcome to outsiders, and of the precarious position of those of us who consider ourselves insiders.
- The Seed Growing Secretly (Mark 4: 26-29)
In the shadow of the large parable of the sower and the seeds, we find this tiny one about the seed growing secretly and mysteriously. The sower sleeps and rises night and day, “and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.” It’s a reminder to me that the seed will bear fruit, and that it’s not all up to me (in fact, very little of it is.)
Watch for more favorite Scriptures in future blogs!
Questions for Reflection:
What are your favourite healing stories and parables of Jesus?
Why do you think these particular ones stick with you?
For next week:
Coffee Mugs that Renew my Spirit