The Need for Expositional Preaching (pt. 3): Jesus was an Expositor

emmausI recently shared this article with our deacons. This post which focuses on Jesus’s own practice of preaching is part three of four. (Parts one and two).

The Old Testament is the not the only place where we find expositional preaching. Jesus himself was expositional preacher. In fact, he was more than an expositional preacher, according to John John 1:18 he literally ‘exegeted’ the Father, meaning that he explained, exposed, and revealed the character of God in his very life and person.

Jesus Was an Expositional Preacher

Jesus also carried on a ministry of exposition before and after his death and resurrection. For instance, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly quoted the Old Testament and then provided a more accurate interpretation and deeper application. In full agreement with his opponents that God’s word was divinely inspired, Jesus taught as one with authority (Matt 7:29). Interestingly, with absolute authority, he did not create his own sermons; he repeatedly put himself under the word of God (cf. Gal 4:4) and interpreted how he himself fulfilled the Old Testament.

One example of this exposition comes on the road to Emmaus. Writing about the day of his resurrection, Luke records the manner in which Jesus spoke to Simon and Cleopas, the two forlorn followers of Christ who had left Jerusalem for the hot springs of Emmaus. Luke records,  “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). While we cannot know the content of his ‘sermon,’ we know that Jesus began with Genesis and continued through the Old Testament expositing all the places that Christ’s sufferings and glories were revealed. Jesus followed the same pattern in the Upper Room. Luke 24:44-47 reads,

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 

Though condensing Jesus’ instruction, it is apparent that Luke gives the sense of Jesus’ teaching. Like on the road to Emmaus, he explains how all three sections of the Old Testament (the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings/Psalms) relate to himself. In so doing Jesus exposits the whole Hebrew Bible in light of his cross and resurrection.

While it was the Holy Spirit that gave Peter and the other apostles power to proclaim the gospel; it was Jesus post-resurrection instruction that explained how the often-confused disciples could understand how to interpret the Old Testament in the light of Christ. As George Smeaton observed a century ago, “Christ’s oral expositions are to be taken as the middle term, or as the connecting link between Old Testament records on the one hand, and the apostolic commentary on the other.  In a word, He was Himself the interpreter of Scripture.” His Christ-centered interpretations sit underneath the testimony of the apostles and can be observed in the texture of the New Testament (cf. George Smeaton, The Apostle’s Doctrine of the Atonement4-7).

Jesus is the Model

In the end, it is impossible to duplicate Jesus’ teaching style, because Jesus is inimitable and because we only have the testimony of Jesus’ apostles, not his actually sermon manuscripts. Still, while we cannot copy Jesus’ sermon style, his pattern of citing the Scripture, explaining Scripture, and applying Scripture is the basic formula for all exposition preaching. It is discernible when we look carefully at how Jesus related to the Old Testament, and it is even more apparent when we look at how his immediate followers preached in the books of Acts and Hebrews. We’ll do that tomorrow.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

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