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What Do Bob Newhart and Jesus and Nathan the Prophet All Have in Common?


Comedian Bob Newhart reminds me a lot of Jesus. Okay so Jesus didn’t perform stand up comedy, or star in hilarious TV sitcoms, though I believe Jesus was funnier than he is portrayed by all those deadly serious British actors. Nor did Bob Newhart change the world. But I digress.

Bob Newhart and Jesus were both great story tellers. In the original Bob Newhart Show Bob played a psychologist who stammered through the surreal situations his crazy patients and friends drew him into. His solutions to their problems usually came in the form of a story. “Emily,” he would say to Suzanne Pleshette, who played his wife Emily, “that reminds me of a story.”

Jesus did likewise. And the prophet Nathan did too when approaching David with the truth about David’s sin. Why?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

2 Samuel 12:1-31

John 16:1-33

Psalm 119:65-80

Proverbs 16:4-5

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

2 Samuel 12:1-31: God is never without a voice. He always has someone he can call on. Nathan only shows up here and in the early part of 1 Kings. And he is called on in extremely difficult situations.

David and Bathsheba’s child dies despite the baby’s innocence and David’s repentance, fasting, and prayer. This seems unfair and even cruel. But in order to honor the freedom God grants each of us, God cannot subvert or remove the consequences of those very free choices. David chose his course and God did not alter it.

John 16:1-33: One core idea of this passage contradicts some tenants of a wide stream of modern Christianity. Jesus tells us that following him will bring us trouble and persecution. Yet many today seem to believe in a Jesus whose sole job is to make them happy and keep them safe (in the U.S. we have transferred much of this belief to our government). Jesus promises us both peace and trouble. Seeking only half the equation means we may only get half of Jesus.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

For the majority of human history story (factual and fictional) has  functioned as the major way we communicate truth and important ideas with one another.  As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, Scripture itself is 75-80% narrative. Even in today’s rational, scientific, “just the facts, ma’am” world, ideas (good and bad ones) are often more effectively communicated through story than any other medium.

For example, several scholars wrote tomes containing the questionable idea that Jesus did not die on the cross and after waking up may have married Mary Magdalene. But no one paid attention until Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code” hit the book stores. Even in our biblically illiterate world, the best known Bible stories are the ones that have been made into movies and books. Story, though much maligned, especially in Christian circles, is and has been an extremely powerful communication tool.

This is why Bob Newhart and Jesus told so many stories and why Nathan confronted David about his dangerous moral failure using fiction.

Notice how Nathan’s story contains elements David’s relates to. David too was an underdog and a shepherd. On hearing the story, David relates and his newly hardened heart is cracked wide open.

Story simultaneously knocks down our defenses and invites us in to the process of change and growth. Had Nathan come to David with bold, only factual accusations, he may not have lived to help David repent. Nathan’s little lamb story also reached David’s emotions and not just his head. It is always harder to deny and debate feelings What we call facts are always debatable. Stories travel that long road between the head and heart faster.

God too is a storyteller. It is his surest way of reaching our heads and hearts. Below are a couple of questions to help you explore the stories God may be using to form you.

  1. What biblical story has made the biggest impact on you?
  2. What is your story?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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