“Did he tell us where we can see Jesus in the text?”
It’s a question I’ve asked on more than one occasion after hearing a message. It’s hard to hear someone speak—even when they explain the text more or less correctly—and wonder, “Did he say anything about Jesus here?” It’s common to wonder this if you’re used to messages that involve five points beginning with the letter “p,” but I’d argue that a commitment to preaching verse by verse does not guarantee we’ll keep Jesus front and center. In fact, I sometimes think it’s easier for us to lose sight of Jesus as we examine the veins on the leaves of a particular tree in one section of the forest.
Truly, there is no worse sermon than one that misses Jesus. By that, I don’t mean ham-fisted attempts to force him into the message, or a tacked-on memorized gospel presentation at the end of the message. What I mean is to always show the connection to Christ. Charles Spurgeon reminds us of this in the following story, previously told by a Welsh minister:
A young man had been preaching in the presence of a venerable divine, and after he had done he went to the old minister, and said, “What do you think of my sermon?”
“A very poor sermon indeed,” said he.
“A poor sermon?” said the young man, “it took me a long time to study it.”
“Ay, no doubt of it.”
“Why, did you not think my explanation of the text a very good one?”
“Oh, yes,” said the old preacher, “very good indeed.”
“Well, then, why do you say it is a poor sermon? Didn’t you think the metaphors were appropriate and the arguments conclusive?”
“Yes, they were very good as far as that goes, but still it was a very poor sermon.”
“Will you tell me why you think it a poor sermon?”
“Because,” said he, “there was no Christ in it.”
“Well,” said the young man, “Christ was not in the text; we are not to be preaching Christ always, we must preach what is in the text.”
So the old man said, “Don’t you know young man that from every town, and every village, and every little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London?”
“Yes,” said the young man.
“Ah!” said the old divine “and so from every text in Scripture, there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. And my dear brother, your business in when you get to a text, is to say, ‘Now what is the road to Christ?’ and then preach a sermon, running along the road towards the great metropolis—Christ. And I have never yet found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if I ever do find one that has not a road to Christ in it, I will make one; I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savour of Christ in it.”1
There is no worse sermon than one where you cannot find Christ in it, no matter how good the explanation of the details of the text. There is no worse devotional thought than one devoid of the presence of our Lord and Savior, no matter how encouraging or motivational it may be. The only truly good message is one where we’ve shown Christ in the text. Every text, every road, as the old divine said, leads to him. Whether we go over hedge and ditch, it is worth it, for good of all who hear—and ourselves—to point the way.