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The Man who loved Ants by James Archer

Editable and printable version

A parable of the incarnation.


It’s time to tell you a story.  Who can tell me how a story should start?  That’s right, Once upon a time …..  But Jesus used to start  his stories in a different way – he started by saying, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like …..”, and that’s how I’m going to start this story.


The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who loved ….. ants!  Have you ever watched a colony of ants?  They go out looking for food, and when they find some they go and fetch others to bring it back to the nest.  Well, the man was fascinated.  Every ant was different and played its own part in the job, and as he watched he got to know them individually, and even to love them.


As he watched, he saw one ant carrying and dragging a crumb larger than itself across the path, always in a straight line toward the nest.  And then it reached a gap between the paving stones which made up the path, and it struggled and struggled, but it couldn’t get the crumb back up onto the next stone, it was just too heavy.  Then two of its friends came up to help, and eventually after several minutes of struggle, they managed to get the crumb up, and the first ant dragged the crumb triumphantly on towards the nest.  And then more and more ants followed in the footsteps of the first ant with more crumbs, and each of them had the same trouble when they reached the crack between the stones.  And with their friends they pushed and pulled and struggled and eventually succeeded, but not before the ants behind were held up like the traffic on the M25 when there is a delay.


Now the man could see, because he was bigger than them, that it would be much easier for the ants to go round the crack rather than over it, so he called out to them to go further to the right.  One or two ants looked up on hearing a voice like thunder above them, but they couldn’t understand it, and the rest just carried on doing as they had before.  So the man got a twig, put it in the way, and waited until an ant was on it with a crumb, and then he moved the twig to a place around the edge of the crack; and hey presto, it got back to the nest without having to struggle.


But in the meantime, the other ants had carried on doing things in the same old way, struggling through the crack with their crumbs rather than following his advice round it.  And the man realised that he could move individual ants each time for their own good, but they didn’t have the sense to understand that he was trying to help them or to follow his advice.  The first ant he had helped came back with another crumb, and the man was delighted to see that it went the way he had suggested, but none of the other ants would follow it; they insisted on struggling in the same way as they had before.


So the man thought and thought, but he couldn’t think of any way to get through to them.  Some of them did not understand, others were too obstinate, and only a few were able to benefit from what was so obviously sensible.  The problem was that ants didn’t understand or trust people.  Which gave him an idea: the way to help them must be through other ants – to get those he had helped to talk to their friends about his advice.  And if that didn’t work, how about if he became like an ant himself and learnt their language- surely they would listen to him.  But how could he become like an ant?  That was impossible – or was it?

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