Human beings are storytellers. While not always conscious of the stories we tell ourselves, our daily actions and habits are oriented toward a vision of the good life and set within a narrative framework. If you want proof of this, look no further than the way advertisers attempt to sell products. Commercials present a positive vision of human flourishing—a goal to strive toward—and then they promote their product as necessary toward achieving it. Whether it’s health, success, sex, or prosperity, stories are being peddled daily into our imaginations.
We can tell a lot about a life, therefore, by identifying the narratives in which one has chosen to live. Most of the time we are telling ourselves multiple stories simultaneously.
We are constantly doing this. “I can’t live up to expectations.” “I have to have this drink.” “If these circumstances would change, then I would finally be able to do what I need to do.” “My life would be everything I want it to be if I had…” “My spouse just isn’t giving me what I need.” “The most important thing for me is to find happiness.”
This tiny sampling represents the kinds of stories we tell ourselves daily. As you can see, each of these stories is oriented toward a goal. Each implicitly affirms some vision of what constitutes the good life. Whenever these narratives are adopted, the orientation of one’s life will be altered in the direction of that goal.
Jesus knows how we work. Have you ever noticed that Luke records two post-resurrection interactions between Jesus and his followers, and in each case, Jesus leads them in a Bible study?
In Luke 24:13-35, Jesus joins two disheartened disciples on a road to Emmaus. Not able to recognize him, they explain what’s been going on and why they are upset. “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (24:21). In this statement, their narrative is revealed. They thought Jesus was the Messiah, but since he died without toppling Israel’s political enemies, now they realize they were wrong. A dead Messiah is no Messiah.
What does Jesus do? “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (24:27). He has a Bible study. He does the same thing when he encounters his eleven troubled disciples a little later. “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (24:44).
Jesus appears, fresh from three days in the grave, and the first thing he says is, “Open your Bibles and let me show you something.” What’s going on here? Perhaps we can answer this question by looking at the reactions of the disciples. The unnamed disciples on the road to Emmaus have their eyes opened and their hearts begin to burn (24:31-32). The eleven have their minds opened to understand (24:45).
Jesus is showing them that he is the fulfillment of all God’s promises. He’s showing them that the entire story of Scripture is fulfilled in him. He’s showing them that he had to die to save his people from their sins. He had to be raised to win the victory over sin and death. He’s offering them a different story to live by—a true story that crushes all others. He’s inviting them to join his story by taking up their role as witnesses to the world (24:48).
The world is not neutral. Every day, you are being liturgized into a vision of the good life that is not consistent with the story of Jesus. You are constantly being bombarded with false stories that promise flourishing but cannot deliver on their promise.
Jesus offers the only alternative. He says, “Let me show you a better way,” and then he turns to Scripture. He doesn’t point us to a slogan or pull verses out of context. He wants us to see the whole story fulfilled in him, and he wants us to enter that story.
We need more Bible. We need to read it, study it, talk about it, live it, and breathe it. We need this story about Jesus to sink into our bones and saturate us to the degree that all false stories lose their shine. We need to close Instagram and Facebook more often so that we can be opened to see the world through resurrected eyes.