Jesus the Extreme Street Preacher

“Think positively, because I’m here to talk with you and walk with you along life’s narrow way. Give me all your tears of sadness and all your years of pain, and you’ll enter into life in my name. By being strong-willed, you will be able to overcome the obstacles of a long and winding, dry and hot desert road and arrive at your blessed assurance. Now you can testify that I’m alive because I live within your heart. Then, because I’m a loving and healing Bro, you can be happy and blest, praising your Savior all the day long.”

Readings: Genesis 3:15; Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 53:10-12; Luke 24:25-27, 44-47 (text); Acts 17:10-12; Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 19

January 1, 2012 Download PDF sermon

A year and a half ago, a man was preaching about the Ten Commandments on top of a stepladder in a street in England when a woman engaged him in a debate about his faith. So he mentioned the sins referred to in 1 Corinthians, including blasphemy, drunkenness and same sex relationships. As a result, a police officer arrested him for causing “harassment, alarm or distress” and using abusive or insulting language.

So-called street preaching dates back to the Old Testament when prophets stood by the city gates to warn the people of judgment against sin. In the New Testament, Jesus and the apostles often preached in the synagogues, marketplaces, streets and homes.

Today, the man arrested for pointing out that homosexuality is a sin against God is the typical image of a street preacher. Preachers standing in the street corner with a sign saying, “Repent! Judgment Day is Coming! are often looked at as weirdos or even bums, because some of them look more like homeless street people than preachers. But what do they accomplish, other than cheapening the name of God and “throwing pearls before pigs”? And even expensive open-air “crusades” turn out merely false converts with false assurance because what is preached is the false gospel of self-willed salvation. To be sure, some people are truly converted in mass evangelistic rallies, but the appointed means by which people are saved today is the preaching of the gospel in the church (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 2:42; Rom 10:14-17).

In our text, Jesus is not like the typical street preacher today, but he is more like those who are called today as the “extreme” kind—those who are involved in a high level of danger and physical exertion. He didn’t stand in a street corner with a sign, but he came alongside two disciples and walked with them for seven miles along a hot and dusty desert road. While he walked with them on the road to Emmaus for two to three hours, Jesus patiently explained God’s eternal salvation plan to them—from Genesis to Malachi. He did not leave them groping for answers to questions about the disturbing events in the last Passover celebration in Jerusalem.

And when they reached the village, the two disciples urged the stranger, “Stay with us,” for the evening was at hand. So he stayed, and even shared a fellowship meal with them. It was only as he broke bread with them that they recognized their Lord. After he left them, the two went back to Jerusalem to break the news to the other disciples that Jesus has appeared to them and then ate a meal with them. And as they talked about these amazing developments, Jesus again appeared among them, and at that late hour of night, he again ate a meal of fish with them.

"Christ on the Road to Emmaus" by Herri Met de Bles, 1480-c.1550
"Christ on the Road to Emmaus" by Herri Met de Bles, 1480-c.1550 (click to enlarge)

What’s so “extreme” about Jesus’s preaching? He spent many hours on the road and in homes explaining, discussing and revealing the whole of God’s redemptive plan to them. He ate meals with them in Emmaus and Jerusalem, and even shared a breakfast of bread and grilled fish with them by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-14). By doing so, he opened their troubled and confused hearts to believe in his resurrection.

On this first Lord’s Day of 2012, we will focus on Jesus’s preaching of the Word of God: The Subject of His Preaching, The Basis of His Preaching, and How His Preaching was Understood. To immerse yourself in the Word of God the way that Jesus himself did: a great New Year’s resolution to strive keeping.

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