Part one, Preaching Enterprise, in this series on the Preaching Enterprise affirmed that criticism is not a preacher’s worst fear. Rather, it is no response at all. Good preachers first root their preaching in God’s truth and love and then pray for a fair response. He humbly knows, however, that he has more control over the message than the response.
Now, we turn to Jesus, the preacher. That’s no cliché. Preaching is what He came to do. Jesus told His disciples, “Let us go somewhere else… so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” (Mark 1:38). It was His divine anointing: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:18).
We often envision Jesus preaching on a mountain side surrounded by flowers near the Sea of Galilee with sparrows flitting by. Nice. However, the third gospel makes it clear that He also “…kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.” (Luke 4:44). As a preacher and teacher, Jesus also made heavy use of the Bible, which He knew well. His favorite sources (among many) were Isaiah, Psalms and Deuteronomy.
“Preacher” may be the best word to use for Jesus to explain why He was so loved and hated. He had one main message and here’s how the first gospel summed it up: “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” (Matthew 4:17). This same message made soft hearts softer and hard hearts harder. Humble and honest hearts hear the word “repent” differently than self-righteous hearts. To the humble, repentance offers their only hope. For the proud, it’s an insult– an excuse to hate the preacher.
Jesus’ parable of the four soils was about His preaching ministry, and ours. He came to cast the seed (God’s truth) but He knew its fate depended on what kind of soil it lands on: a hard path, rocky ground, thorny dirt, or good soil. If Jesus’ preaching did not get glowing results from all who heard it, why should ours?
When Jesus sent out the Twelve, He charged them to “preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’” (Matthew 10:7). The second gospel added, “They went out and preached that people should repent.” (Mark 6:12). He warned his disciples about the mistreatment that such topics would bring but told them to go anyway.
With His fate on the cross around the corner, Jesus stopped in Bethany where a woman poured some pricey perfume on His head. Observers were indignant over such a waste noting that it could have been sold on behalf of the poor. Jesus, however, saw her deed as “beautiful” (Mark 14:6, NIV, 1984) and put an end to their scolding. Doing good to the poor could be done, “whenever you wish,” Jesus told them, “but you do not always have me.” (vs. 7).
Was Jesus being selfish? Hardly. He was on the brink of making the most unselfish sacrifice ever and He saw her anointing as preparation for His burial. He knew that the result of his impending death, burial and resurrection would be the eternal redemption of sinners like you and me. That’s the good news we are commissioned to preach to the end of time. Jesus knew that all earthly wealth was worthless to any and all who stay stuck in sin. So he said, “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9).
Before his crucifixion, Jesus warned His followers of dire times ahead. He spoke of nations and kingdoms in conflict, earthquakes and famines as mere “birth pangs.” They would be dragged before officials, governors and kings to be flogged and persecuted. Nevertheless, He said, “the gospel must first be preached to all nations.” (Mark 13:10). Preaching must pervade the entire process. Matthew quoted Jesus this way, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14). Again, after His resurrection, Jesus told his disciples that “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47).
Saint Francis of Assisi (1182 – 1226) once said, “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” Jesus did and he paid the ultimate price for it. And that payment (His life) failed to shut Him up because we are here now to carry on in His steps.
Don’t forget to mention that humble and generous woman at Bethany.