The Four Sentence Story on the Resurrection
The Four Sentence Story is a memory pattern that can be used for preaching, teaching, and storytelling without notes. Every story can be broken down into four parts. The setting, tension, resolution, and through line. Memorize these four parts, add your own creativity into the mix, and then watch the story unfold.
(setting) Jesus has been dead for three days and all seems lost.
(tension) Having accepted defeat, the female disciples of Jesus go to anoint his body with funeral spices to hide the stench of death.
(resolution) But the tomb is empty, Jesus’ funeral linens are stacked as if they had been taken off, and angels call the women to remember that Jesus had predicted this to all of his disciples, that even the grave itself couldn’t hold him down.
(through line) Death isn’t the final act when Jesus is in it, both for the here and now, and the then and later.
Every story can be broken down into a few parts. The setting, where the story takes place, and why it might be important. The characters and their emotions and thoughts invested in the story. A tension that needs to be resolved. A resolution that brings us through the tension, and a through line (aka the main idea) that carries the story through from beginning to end.
The Setting Jesus has been dead for three days and the disciples have given up all hope evidenced by the women going to anoint Jesus with burial spices. This story takes its entire shape around an empty tomb.
- Women who have gone to the tomb with burial spices to cover up the stench of death. This included Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women with them.
- 2 men in clothes that flashed like lightning, asking the women, why do you look for the living among the dead, challenging the women to recall what Jesus taught them.
- The Eleven and the rest, who believed the women were talking nonsense when they shared what they had seen.
- Peter, who, unlike the others, jumped up and ran to the tomb when he heard the women’s story. He was astonished to find the strips of linen empty and the tomb empty.
The Tension The disciples have accepted defeat. Their beloved Jesus is dead and the women have gone to anoint Jesus with burial spices, not only as an act of respect, but also to cover up the stench of death.
The Resolution The women disciples find out that they’re looking for the living among the dead and that they won’t find Jesus here, because what he taught them about resurrection has come true.
The Through Line Death isn’t the final act when Jesus is in it both for the here and now, and the then and later.
Why has this story endured? It’s a turning point story. Jesus has defeated death. No longer do we have to live in defeat. The resurrection takes what’s dead and makes it alive again because of who Jesus is.
What does this story tell us about God? God, the author of life, has power even over death.
What does this story tell us about humanity? We all grieve and mourn in the face of death. It’s only human to do so.
What is true for them then that is still true for us today? We all need that spark of hope, that God can do something with all of those terrible things we experience in life. That it’s not all meaningless. The same resurrection alluded to in this passage is as much for us as it was for them.
Where is the Gospel/Good News in this story? The stone being rolled away wasn’t about letting Jesus out. It was about letting us see the resurrection of Jesus.
How does this story help us love God? This story is a reminder that God brings hope in hopeless situations, that he’s the master of breathing life back into what seems dead. This is a mark of a God that cares about the people he has created, sending us the ultimate reminder that there is hope for us.
How does this story help us love people? I’m reminded that one of the ways we love others is by sharing with them what we’ve seen God do in our own lives. The women in this story do just that. I’m also reminded that sometimes the most loving thing you can do is to break rank even when it goes against popular opinion especially if it leads others towards the truth.