Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Jesus preached at your church?
Several Sundays ago, an interesting idea came to me on the way to church. What if Jesus was the pastor that morning? I started to think about what might different if Jesus preached at my church.
Would I listen more earnestly to the sermon? Would I be more inspired? Would I see myself in a new light and have a deeper sense of purpose? Would I be afraid he would read my mind and see all the things I worry about or the problems I haven’t solved? Would he heal me? How would I respond? How would it change my life?
I decided to listen to the sermon that morning and engage with the ideas the way I would if Jesus was the one preaching. There was nothing different about the way the church service was conducted, but there was a big difference in me.
During the sermon that morning, as Bible verses were read and then expounded upon, I heard everything in a completely new light. There were not really any new ideas in the sermon. And it was a good sermon, by the way. But I was experiencing it on a whole new level.
Is your church service ever formulaic?
Sometimes church services can seem a little formulaic. The order we sing and pray and listen to the sermon, is pretty much the same every Sunday.
That Sunday, the sermon had so much more authority for me. There was so much more spiritual depth. As I said, on the surface, nothing was different. But the message that morning was alive for me in a way I had never experienced before because I felt Christ was speaking directly to me.
After the service, I got to thinking. If Jesus was literally the full-time pastor of my church and I felt so much inspiration, would I invite someone to come with me next week? Absolutely.
Well then, why would I be hesitant to invite someone to come to my church with the pastor we have?
I haven’t yet invited anyone to come, but I’m definitely thinking about who I could invite.
Just think about when Jesus was preaching 2,000 years ago in a very small region of the Roman Empire. People started to come and listen. A lot of people followed him around to hear more of what he had to say.
When Jesus preached
Why did people come to listen?
Well, there were lots of reasons. These aren’t in any particular order of importance:
- He was a good speaker
- He told good stories, or parables
- He spoke with authority, like he knew what he was talking about
- He gave new meaning to the Scriptures
- His message was powerful and had the ring of truth, because he lived the ideas he taught, he practiced what he preached
- People felt uplifted, valued, and loved by Jesus
- People were curious
- People told others about Jesus and invited them to come see for themselves
- People were healed and others came hoping they would be healed
- They often liked what they heard and came to hear him again and brought their friends
What if these were the reasons we were coming to church?
Why go to church?
I’ve been thinking about my motive for going to church.
Do I go just because I’m supposed to? Or am I going to hear Christ, the Word of God, preach to me about the kingdom of heaven?
A lot of Christians refer to the Bible as the Word of God, and I often think of the Bible in this light. But actually, the Word, or Logos, the Greek word used in John, Chapter 1, doesn’t refer to the Bible but to Christ himself. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3056/kjv/tr/0-1/
Christ is the Word of God.
Jesus preached the Word of God
Jesus was the embodiment of God’s Word. He made it clear that he only said what God told him to. You could say he was God’s spokesperson. I quote this often on The Bible Speaks to You Podcast:
For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say. John 12:49, 50 NIV
There’s another verse that sheds a little more light on Jesus’s approach to the words that came out his mouth. When Jewish leaders were amazed that he was so well acquainted with the Scriptures and deep theological ideas without having any formal religious training, Jesus replied,
Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. John 7:16 KJV
The words Jesus spoke, were not his words, but God’s words. Jesus literally fulfills that definition of the Christ as the Word of God. Everything Jesus said was God’s words, or message to humanity.
Everything Jesus preached then, was actually him just repeating what God told him to say.
What does it mean to preach?
The Greek word for “preach,” kēryssō is interesting.
It’s used to mean: to proclaim after the manner of a herald, always with the suggestion of formality, gravity and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed.
That kind of makes sense. If a herald was sent by the king to proclaim a new law or something that had to be done, he came with the same authority as if the king had delivered the message. A herald was not to relay his own ideas, just the official message.
Jesus was proclaiming, as a herald would, what God told him to say. The message was directly from God, repeated by Jesus to the people.
No wonder people went to hear Jesus preach. They were getting unedited messages from God, without any added human opinions or explanation. They were getting the unvarnished truth and undiluted words of God.
That sounds pretty refreshing doesn’t it?
To the degree that sermons today follow Jesus’s example, and proclaim with the urgency and authority of a God-appointed herald, what God is saying, our churches will be built on the Rock of Christ instead of on the sands of human doctrines and opinions.
Jesus as the Messiah
One of the key focal points of Jesus’s ministry was to communicate loud and clear, to those who had ears to hear and eyes to see, that he was the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. He did this more by his actions than by his words.
Although not everyone figured this out. They even sort of blamed him for not making it clear.
The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name.” John 10:24, 25 NLT
What is Jesus talking about?
It was prophesied in the Old Testament that the Messiah would heal the sick and open the blind eyes, which Jesus was doing.
Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.
He is my chosen one, who pleases me.
I have put my Spirit upon him.
He will bring justice to the nations.
You will open the eyes of the blind.
You will free the captives from prison,
releasing those who sit in dark dungeons. Isaiah 42:1, 7 NLT
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; Isaiah 61:1 KJV
Just think of how Jesus described the woman bent over as being bound by Satan. He certainly got her out of that prison when he healed her. (See Luke 13:10-17 below)
If these folks had really been following what Jesus was doing, they would have realized he was fulfilling these prophecies and was indeed the Messiah.
When Jesus preached, he knew he was the Messiah
The more I study how Jesus preached, it’s clear to me that one of the things that made this preaching successful was that Jesus knew he was the Christ. This was his divine nature and authority given to him by God. People felt that authority and responded to it.
I asked my high school Sunday School class one time: Why Jesus didn’t just come out and just tell those people he was the Messiah?
After a thoughtful silence, one of the students said simply, “He wanted them to figure it out for themselves.”
There were times when Jesus did come right out and say he was the Messiah. When he was talking to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well and saw her receptivity, he told her plainly who he was.
She didn’t flinch. She didn’t doubt. She didn’t pepper him with questions as to how or why. She just accepted it and believed it on the spot.
This may be stretching it a bit, but you could say Jesus was preaching a little individual sermon to her. He was certainly proclaiming God’s message to her. What did she do? Just what you would do if Jesus was preaching at your church. She ran to tell everyone she could about Jesus.
The Samaritan woman tell her friends
What was the result? They believed her and naturally wanted to hear him for themselves. And they went to find him. Do you see a pattern here?
So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”John 4:40-42 NIV
If Jesus was the pastor at your church, this is probably what would happen over and over again.
Knowing Jesus is the Messiah
Recognizing that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, is a crucial part of a successful sermon. Now I don’t mean just saying those words and expecting or demanding that someone believe them. The actual words may not be spoken. It’s the spirit of understanding that Jesus is the Messiah, which gives a sermon its real power and baptizes us into a more spiritual approach to life, in what we say, think, and do.
When a pastor of a church, along with the membership, is clear who Jesus is as the Son of God, not in a dogmatic, doctrinal way, but in the spirit of this great truth being a revelation from God, you and visitors to your church will experience Christ, the Word of God, preaching directly to your hearts.
Peter knew who Jesus is
This is what made Peter such a powerful preacher. When he preached on the Day of Pentecost to a large multitude of Jewish pilgrims in Jerusalem, after quoting various Scriptures and Messianic prophecies and how Jesus fulfilled them, he concluded his remarks by saying,
Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah. Acts 2:36 NIV
These Jewish listeners knew the Scriptures quoted and accepted the truth Peter proclaimed. As a result about 3,000 people accepted Jesus as the Messiah and became part of a growing number of others who believed.
Here again, it was the awareness that Jesus is the Messiah that was the important part of Peter’s message.
Paul knew who Jesus is
Paul often preached in the same way.
Once, when he was in Antioch, Paul was in the synagogue on the Sabbath. After the Scripture reading, an open invitation to share brought Paul to his feet.
You can read his whole sermon in Acts 13:14-41.
In his remarks Paul refers to Jesus as the Messiah and that God raised him from the dead, quoting the correlating prophecies.
If you had been listening to Paul in that Synagogue, how would you have responded? It might have been a shock to hear that the Messiah had come. The Jews definitely wanted the Messiah to come. They were full of hope and expectation. But to hear that the Messiah had come in such an unexpected way was a lot to take in.
How did they respond?
As Paul and Barnabas left the synagogue that day, the people begged them to speak about these things again the next week.
The following week almost the entire city turned out to hear them preach the word of the Lord. Acts 13:42, 44 NLT
Why? Because the folks there told their friends. They didn’t go to hear Paul. They went to hear about Jesus being the Messiah. That was the attraction. It was thrilling to see how the Scriptures had been fulfilled.
Not everyone believed
Not everyone who heard Paul preach accepted what he said. Some did not believe Jesus was the Messiah and stirred up some opposition. And that was a pattern that often repeated itself when Paul preached about Jesus. That’s a different story, but don’t be surprised, when you and your church declare boldly that Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ, that there may be those opposed to this message, in one way or another.
I’ll say this again: To the degree that your pastor, you, and your fellow church members, think, act, and speak with the awareness that Jesus is the Messiah, whether those specific words are spoken or not, visitors to your church will feel the Christ speaking to them, just as if Jesus himself were preaching the sermon.
If Jesus preached at your church
When you go to church this Sunday, I encourage you to give this a try. Imagine Jesus is preaching the sermon at church. How would you listen? How would you respond? What would be different? Would you invite someone to come with you next week?
During the service, listen to your pastor’s sermon the same way you’d listen to Jesus.
I did this again this past Sunday and once again, the sermon was alive with inspiration.
It’s not about how big or small your church is. It’s not about what your church building looks like. It’s about hearing the voice of Christ. If you are hearing the Christ speak directly to you, it’s more likely that a visitor will too.
Christ is preaching to you and the world
Think of that for just a moment. Christ is preaching directly to you and everyone in your church.
Now think of Christ as the preacher in every church, preaching directly to every heart present.
One of my favorite verses that describes how Jesus preached:
And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. Matthew 9:35 KJV
Jesus, as a man, as a traveling preacher, is not going from town to town preaching and healing the way he did 2,000 years ago. But the spirit of Christ is. Christ goes into every town and village, every church, every heart, every nook and cranny of the universe preaching his message of salvation and healing, and proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
This Sunday, Christ is preaching at your church. Blessed are your ears, for they will hear the Word of God.
Photo credit: TheChosen.tv
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
John 12:49, 50 NIV
49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.
50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.
John 7:16 KJV
16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
John 10:24, 25 NLT
24 The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name.
Isaiah 42:1, 7 NLT
1 Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.
He is my chosen one, who pleases me.
I have put my Spirit upon him.
He will bring justice to the nations.
7 You will open the eyes of the blind.
You will free the captives from prison,
releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.
Isaiah 61:1 KJV
1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
Luke 13:10-17 NIV
10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues,
11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.
12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”
13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?
16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
John 4:40-42 NIV
40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.
41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
Acts 2:36 NIV
36 Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.
Acts 13:42, 44 NLT
42 As Paul and Barnabas left the synagogue that day, the people begged them to speak about these things again the next week.
44 The following week almost the entire city turned out to hear them preach the word of the Lord.
Matthew 9:35 KJV
35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.