When an Image Gives you Life

Yesterday I mentioned how hard it is to do illustrations well. You have to be incredibly skilled to be able to use an "image" to make a point, and avoiding it being the point people remember. Jesus did this masterfully throughout the Gospels. His images were carefully chosen, and used in such a way that they made His point without distracting from it.

My favorite is at the last supper when He uses the illustration of bread and wine - two staples at virtually every first century Jewish meal. When He held up the bread, He held up something Jewish families ate all the time. They prepared it. They smelled it baking. They touched it and tasted it every time they sat down for a meal.

When Jesus said "every time you do this, remember Me," He was tying something to their mind that would never be undone. It was bigger than just communion every week. Every time they walked through the market and smelled the fresh-baked bread they should remember Him. Every time they sat down at a meal and broke the bread to pass around, they should remember Him. Every time they ate a sandwich, they should remember Him.

His image was common to the speaker and the audience, it was relatable, and it was unbelievably simple. But the point was clear.

A lot of times, I work really hard to develop an illustration to the point people understand the direction I'm taking it. Then, my main point becomes more of a punch-line. When Jesus used illustrations/images to make His point, He found illustrations that didn't need much introducing. Fig trees were everywhere. Bread and wine were staples of dinner. Mustard seed grew like ragweed. And because the illustrations were simple, common, and didn't need explanation, they didn't distract from the real point Jesus was trying to make.


Jill said...

I've had the privilege of sharing the Lord's Supper in several different cultural settings, the most poignant of all being under a marula tree on a hillside near a gold mine in southern Zimbabwe. I lived in Zim for many years where we often did one cup or just a few cups for a whole crowd. Talk about communion!
I've often marveled at Jesus' illustration, and that it is timeless and nearly culturally universal. I now live in New Zealand, a multi-cultural place where we can meet in cities or on small islands, yet the Lord always meets us round His table. Of all the illustrations He could have given . . . this one gives us life.