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preaching Jesus in every sermon – andy shudall

The Sermon on the Mount Carl Bloch, 1890

How do I preach Jesus from this passage? How can I bring Him clearly into it without forcing Him in? Must I always get to Jesus?

In talking through and training others in preaching from the Old Testament these are the questions most often posed.

The starting point is wrong. The foundational assumptions underlying such questions are sinking sand and will never produce a hermeneutic that confidently preaches Jesus from the Jewish Scriptures. You’ll get bogged down, you’ll bolt him on, you’ll clumsily build bridges and awkwardly introduce him as though he doesn’t belong. There is a better way.

Jesus is God’s first spoken Word, “in the beginning” …”was the Word” “…the Lord made the heavens and the earth”. Jesus is God’s last and supreme Word “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” He is the Alpha and Omega of history, salvation, revelation; of the whole of God’s Word. He is the divine inclusio; there is nothing said outside of the Eternal Son as the primary focus of Scriptural content.

We do not come to the context and text of the Old Testament seeking to jemmy Jesus in, we don’t sneak him through as though he were an uninvited guest, we mustn’t speak of Him as though he were a last minute addition to the plan, nor as the required repairman of a plan gone wrong. He has always been the best and the better, the first and foremost, the face in the crowd, the saviour in the wings, the friend to the weary, the guide to the lost, the lover of the loved, the comfort of the outcast, the ram in the thickets, the Lord in the midst, the light of the glory, the grace in the Law, the king on the throne, the word to be heard, the shepherd of the sheep, the judge of the wicked, the healer of the broken, the protector of his people, the prophet to the deaf, the sign to the blind, the speaker of truth, the rebuker of liars, the song of the worshipper, the joy of the faithful, the refuge for the persecuted, the anchor in high seas, the voice in the stillness, the destroyer of nations, the exalter of the humble, the melter of mountains, the friend in the furnace, the God in the wilderness, the redeemer of the world. He is the open secret of the gospel – long unrecognised and now proclaimed for the whole of creation to see and to know.

Must we always get to Jesus? We must always start in Him. There is no Old Testament without Him, nothing to preach apart from Him. Preach a principle that does not have Christ as its principal and you preach the ingenuity of human thinking but not the inspiration of Divine revelation. Preach ethics without the incarnate Christ as its limit and origin and you preach a humanitarian ideal that is alien to Scripture. Preach the Law without preaching its telos and themelios in Christ Jesus and you preach a passage without its passion – the lawgiver who is grace and truth in flesh.

It is not so much how much of Christ we can fit into our preaching of the Old Testament, not a question of the appropriateness of mentioning Jesus, but rather how can we preach at all – I’d go as far as to say how DARE we preach at all – if we do not preach Christ in and from the Old Testament. He is there waiting to be uncovered, introduced, allowed to speak, waiting to rescue, comfort, rebuke and equip. All that comes before is but His shadow, so that we recognise Him in His fullness and preach Him in all confidence.

We must not make it awkward or simplistic for He is compelling and complex: the Eternal Son in human flesh. We must preach the passage as God first spoke it, intended it and delivered it: Christ intended, Jesus focussed and historically given. We must speak it as it was first heard: mysterious but not impenetrable, perplexing but not confused. We proclaim Him whom Scripture declares.

“He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27 NIVUK)

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