On Jared C. Wilson’s “The Storytelling God.”
Some of the clearest portions of Scripture on the nature and character of God come in the form of parables, which, as it happens, are also some of the most confusing and debated portions of Scripture as well. You’ve probably heard the old idiom that attempts to define a “parable” as, “A heavenly story with an earthly meaning.” But what Jared Wilson does in The Storytelling God isn’t so much as redefine “parable” or radically reconstruct the way we think about the parables themselves, rather, he expertly shows us how we haven’t gone far enough with our pat definition of Jesus’s illustrations.
I must confess that I was fairly unfamiliar with Jared’s writing before this work. Probably, the most interaction I had with him was via Twitter. But besides those 140-character snippets, I wasn’t versed in his theology or authorship. In The Storytelling God, though, I became very attracted to his style and expertise. This work on the parables does an excellent job at displaying for the reader just how expansive these stories and illustrations actually are. They show us grace, they show us the Redeemer and his kingdom, they show us Jesus — the real Jesus, whose “very existence demands a response.” Jared goes on to say that, “There is no such thing as apathy to Jesus. If you are not with him, you are against him.” The parables of Scripture, like the gospel itself, are confrontational, challenging our human notions of justice, fairness, righteousness, and reciprocity.
Rightfully so, Jared treats well all the parables in their fullness, beautifully showing how each one shows us more of the grace, deity, and holiness of Christ, as he is the lone source of all goodness in this life. To come to Jesus, then, means that we must openly admit and accept our own badness, knowing and owning the fact that nothing good resides in us. Jared says, “When the outwardly successful find Christ, it is always because they recognize their inward failure.” Many of these parables were articulated with the smug, self-righteous Pharisees in attendance. And it’s to them, either directly or indirectly, that Jesus spoke. Likewise, it’s to us that these parables speak. They show us who we are and who our Savior is: he’s our Shepherd and Rock and Light and Judge and Father.
Perhaps my favorite quote of Jared’s, though, is the following: “The rock to build on, then, is not the doing of Jesus’s words but the work of Jesus already done.” This perfectly encapsulates the entirety of the gospel. Belief in the gospel of God is not based on a flimsy faith in something we’re not quite sure of; it’s always based on a firm knowledge of what we know, of what we’ve been told. These stories, then, are proclamations of good news. The parables report from heaven the indelible compassion and patience of the Godhead. They tell us the story of Christ and invite us to see his character in likenesses we never dreamed of before.
The glory of Jesus lies in his substitutionary atonement for feeble, filthy, fragile sinners like you and me. In Christ the Lord and Sun of Righteousness taking on himself all that belonged to us, and giving us all that was rightfully his. By enacting the glorious exchange, Jesus “was willing to become like us, that we might become like him.” This is what makes Jesus’s good news so good. This is what we’re pointed to all throughout the parables of Scripture. Jared’s dexterity at conveying rich theological truth in a pastoral way is exceptional. This isn’t Sunday School; these stories won’t remind you of those flannel-graph stories you might’ve endured as a kid. These are revelations of Christ as the storytelling God.