Wednesday, November 30, 2011

To Be A Great Preacher, Learn From Jesus!

Jesus – Our Example As A Preacher

The world has never seen a better preacher than our Lord Jesus Christ. It should be the aim of every preacher to preach like Him, as far as possible.

There is an old book on the preaching style of Jesus that was published in 1910, titled “The Master Preacher” (It is out of print now and not available). It is an excellent study but a very large book and heavy to read (319 pages). Some of the main points mentioned in it are listed below.

I have also attached an article that I wrote some years ago about my own style of preaching – as I have sought to follow Jesus’ example.

Studying the preaching style of Jesus will challenge you to change your preaching style. Don’t hold on to your own style or the style of preaching found in Christendom today, where you see that Jesus’ style was different. Be bold and humble enough to change. Determine to follow Jesus’ example radically. You will then find that God supports you mightily and blesses your ministry.

We need more examples today of preachers who preach like Jesus did.

Zac Poonen


By A.R.Bond 

(Published - 1910) 
(Now in public domain) 
(Some quotes from the book)

Jesus did not have any fixed hours for His preaching. He was at work at all times of the year and was intensely active throughout His public ministry. All classes of people made up His audience and He had an appropriate message for each one. He preached to the multitudes publicly, but much more to His twelve disciples privately. He travelled all over Israel and addressed the village and town crowds with equal ease. Individuals received the same care from Him as the multitudes did. He did not prefer the poor simply because of their poverty. The rich could come to Him too if they humbled themselves.

In the first three gospels, we read of 31 conversations that Jesus had with 28 persons on 24 occasions. In John's gospel, we read of 24 conversations that he had with 17 people. 8 conversations that He had with Peter are highlighted.

Jesus saw the importance of every opportunity and never let any of them slip. John 3:10 & 4:18 are instances of His making use of the times of sensitivity to religious truths, and reaching each person with an appropriate message (not just a standard one).

Jesus was always freely approachable and He made much of the individual. He had a special consideration for women and children, even if it meant that at times he had to go against the social norms of His day (as in John 4). He was the friend of sinners – right up to the end.

Jesus preached in the temple, in the synagogues and in the open-air. He preached in the homes of people – disregarding their social position, their financial standing and their purity.

He always got the attention of people when He preached. His preaching was always serious and passionate. He avoided joking and lightheartedness in His messages and never trifled with the great truths of eternity. He was always dignified. His preaching was conversational in style and He encouraged people to ask questions. His personality was authoritative and His insight into man's thought-processes was remarkably accurate. Each message He preached fitted the occasion.


His home at Nazareth brought Him in touch with the middle-class of society, and His sympathetic heart led Him to discover the condition of the poor and the unfortunate in society. He used the religious ideas of His day as a starting point and then exposed their errors.

Intellectually, Jesus made His preaching understandable to His audience and adapted it to the level of His hearers (Mark 4:33). He was simple, yet deep, and never used fancy words. The mind being the door to the emotions and will, He touched the mind first.

The emotions of His audience were aroused by Jesus’ preaching. Amazement is recorded on 34 occasions on the part of the audience. On 18 occasions, sorrow is mentioned as being caused or alleviated by Him. There was also, anger, joy, jealousy, hope and hatred. His aim in arousing such emotions was never to satisfy Himself or for sensationalism, but always to lead people to right living.

The will was what Jesus finally sought to move in men in all His preaching. He worked towards this goal – to get men to submit totally to the will of God.

His logic. He established his points step by step. Matthew 19:17; 6:28ff; 10:25; 11:16ff; 12:24ff; 7:9ff; 12:11; Luke 11:5ff; 14:28; 15:4; 17:7; John 3:2ff; 4:7ff; 8:3ff' 8:17ff; 10:34ff.

Illustrations. He used many figures of speech. There are 62 of them in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ alone - e.g. salt, light, bread, etc., A wide range of life was covered. Jesus entered into the full life and interests of men and was not a hermit. He used many illustrations from agricultural and home life. The physical world gave him many themes for spiritual realities. His word-pictures were simple and brief. His illustrations did not always tell the full story. He left something to the imagination of the hearers, because He wanted men to think. Jesus always used clear, simple words. He never used any abstract, difficult words. He used word-pictures only where they made the truth clearer.

Interrogation. There are 237 distinct questions recorded that Jesus asked. This is undoubtedly the best method of preaching. But one must be in touch with God and must know God’s Word thoroughly, to be able to have a ready answer always. Jesus knew the thought-processes of men so well that even when people never said anything, it is written that "Jesus answered and said".

Denunciations. Jesus denounced wickedness without any respect of persons. He never sought acceptance through name or position in society. He used sharp irony and sarcasm and thus made many enemies – who finally killed Him. But His denunciations were totally free from any personal venom or hatred.

Repetition. Jesus repeated His messages often in different places. He was more concerned to meet the needs of men than to earn a reputation for saying some new thing on each occasion. He also repeated messages and themes to the same audience – about the kingdom of God, God as a Father, love, watchfulness, self-denial, the cross, etc.

Jesus always packed much into a few words.

Jesus never sought to move people by the power of oratory. He wanted people to be moved by the content of His message.

Posture. Jesus preached standing as well as sitting. He prayed standing while in public, and kneeling in private devotions. He touched many whom He healed and also little children. These touches brought Him nearer to those people in spirit as well. He used His hands while speaking too (Matt 12:49). He looked up (Mark 6:41; 7:34; John 11:41; 17:1), and also at times looked at certain people directly (Mark 3:5, 34; 8:33' 10:21; Luke 6:20; 20:17; 22:61).

Humour and irony. Jesus was a master of irony. He used figures that the common man could appreciate. He could turn an occasion of embarrassment into one of profit (Matt 22:21). See also Matthew 7:1-5; 11:17; 23:24; Luke 11:37-41; 14:12-23.

Startling sayings. Jesus sometimes made startling statements to make the audience think. See Matt 5:29, 30; 6:24; 9:11ff; 11:11; 15:14; 16:28; 16:7, 21ff; 24:42,43; Mark 9:10; 10:26, 30; Luke 2:41ff, 12:51; John 2:19; 6:60.

At times, Jesus would walk away after saying something – Matt 13:53; 15:21; 16:4; 19:1,15. Compare Luke 12:51 with John 14:27; and John 9:39 with 12:47; and John 6:37 with 44.


Jesus used specific occasions to emphasise certain specific truths (Matt 12:46-50; Mark 12:41-44; Luke 22:24-30; John 4:35). He taught truth that could be understood fully only gradually - as one grew in Christlikeness.

He spoke mainly on these seven themes:

The kingdom of God (78 references)

God the Father.

Eternal Life


Sin and righteousness


His death and resurrection

He referred to Himself as the Son of man 52 times.

He also spoke on minor themes – such as the evangelization of the world, fasting, alms-giving etc., Jesus never lost the true relation of truths one to another.

Jesus laid down principles to guide men in every relationship and duty in life. In His preaching, He embraced all classes and ages of people and all contingencies.

He spoke on subjects of supreme importance and not on the trivial topics that the rabbis discussed (cf. Matt 23:23). He never spoke on philosophy, reform or politics.

Jesus spoke logically and did not wander from His theme. He used exhortation, parables, interrogation, teaching etc., to make the presence and love of God real to men and to impress their responsibilities upon them.

His message reflected His own experience and He lived His message before preaching it (Acts 1:1).

The Old Testament. In the gospel records, there are 34 direct quotations from the Old Testament and 23 allusions to Old Testament events in the teaching of Jesus. He had learnt the Old Testament at home, in the village school and in the synagogue. Portions of Scripture had to be memorized by Hebrew boys. His mother must have taught Him too. Jesus accepted the Divine inspiration of the Old Testament without any question. The Old Testament was a formative force in the spiritual life of Jesus.

Jesus lived in a day when everyone blindly followed the opinions of dead scholars. The rabbi was superior to Scripture. Originality and freshness were unknown. In the midst of all this, Jesus was original (Matt 7:29). He interpreted the Old Testament spiritually, replacing the customary ceremonial interpretation, and raised its standards (Matthew 5).

Jesus’ preaching was always topical – and this is the way the apostles also preached, following His example.He quoted from the Old Testament, but never any long passages. In 29 out of the 34 quotations Jesus used some sign of quotation, such as, "It is written". He made sword-thrusts at times with pointed verses from the Old Testament. The 34 quotations He made were taken from 46 texts in the Old Testament (28 from the first 5 books of Moses, 7 from the Psalms and 11 from the Prophets). The words of Jesus were filled with the spirit and phraseology of the Old Testament. He used Old Testament examples to rebuke the traditions of the people (Matt 12:1-5).

Controversial Issues. The Jews were more concerned with their privileges as God's chosen people than with their corresponding responsibility to the nations. Jesus preached the necessity of a personal, vital relationship with God. The Jews gave undue importance to the historic opinions of dead rabbis. Jesus emphasised the spirit of the Word and rebuked their Bibliolatry. The Jewish Messianic hope included worldly honour and power. Jesus attacked this.

His enemies considered Jesus mediocre, because of His humble origin. But His popularity aroused their envy (John 7:12; 11:48) and His giving more attention to the cheating tax-collectors irritated them. So they accused Him of blasphemy and of being in league with Satan.

Six times they charged Jesus with desecrating the Sabbath. Jesus taught that the traditions of the elders were a hindrance to faith and to the true service of God.

We read of 22 instances where Jesus argued with His enemies defensively (as in John 8:7; Matt 22:21). On 4 occasions Jesus kept silent against the charges levelled at Him – and this enraged His enemies. He refused to show signs, but occasionally used miracles to defend His message (Matt 9:6; Luke 14:1-6).


The records in the gospels mention 26 miracles of healing and 8 miracles of nature that Jesus did up to the time of His death. (12 miracles of healing were done with physical contact). The miracles of Jesus were not meant to be spectacular demonstrations. Five times He refused to do a miracle when asked to (See Matt. 12:38,45; 16:1-4; Luke 23:8-12; John 2:13-22; 6:22-59).

The miracles of Jesus were not meant to create an audience. Only once (Luke 8:39) did Jesus ask the healed person to tell others; and on that occasion it was because Jesus Himself was going away from there immediately. Four times, He clearly forbade it (Matt 8:2-4; 9:27-31; Mark 7:32-37; 8:22-26). The temptation to draw crowds through miracles might have been too strong for one who was less confident in the power of his truth, less consecrated to his sacrificial mission and less acquainted with the vacillating nature of people.

Jesus' miracles were a response to human need. He never once failed to respond to real need. He always acted in the interest of others. He never profited by His own miracles except in Matt 14:13-23; 15:32-38; (multiplying the loaves and fishes); and 17:24-27 (finding a coin in a fish’s mouth) – and in all these cases it was for the benefit of others also. The miracles were manifestations of the Divine compassion.

The miracles also had an evidential value in that they attested the Person of Jesus (John 2:11, 23; Mark 2:10, 11; but compare John 12:37). The greatest number of miracles were performed during the middle period of His ministry - the time of maximum opposition.

Spiritual truth was always meant to be central (see the ascending order in Matt 11:5) (John 10:37, 38). Jesus taught that some diseases came through sin (John 5:14), but not all (John 9:3).

Jesus often used the occasion of His miracles to teach some truth.


Gentleness is the mark of the great soul (Matt 12:20). Jesus could never look unmoved at the struggling masses of people. His interest in people was a master passion. His heart was full of compassion (Matt 9:36; 14:14; 18:27; Mark 1:41; 6:34; John 11:35). Being tempted like all other men increased His sympathy (Heb 2:18; 4:15).

Jesus always maintained a lovable disposition in spite of other pressures. He was never once in a bad mood. There is not one case of rejected requests for healing. He was gentle and friendly towards despised sinners (Luke 7:34; Matt 11:28). He cared for the lowly - the lepers, the insane, the blind and the demoniacs. He elevated woman to the side of man. He was truly chivalrous.

His gentleness however did not prevent him from being firm where the will of God was concerned (John 6:15; Matt 16:23; John 7:3-8;Luke 9:51). He knew how and when and whom to rebuke and to comfort. He had an appropriate word for each person and for each occasion (Matt 8:26 with John 14:1; and Luke 7:44-46 with 48, 50; John 12:3-8).

His gentleness was reflected in the tone of His voice. He never spoke in harsh, cruel or repulsive tones - though He knew how to rebuke sternly. Children were attracted to Him, and not frightened by His voice or appearance. Jesus dispelled the shadows and chased away gloom and despair wherever He went.


Jesus' personal appearance was simple. He followed the manners of His people in matters of dress. The middle-class family to which He belonged normally wore white clothes (as men do even today in the villages of India).

The style of Jesus preaching was free from adornment, from complex construction and from obscure thoughts. He did not seek to obtain a reputation for learning either through a mystical unintelligible message or through quoting the great writers of history. The only Book He ever quoted was the Old Testament.

His message was clear and simple and He was totally confident of what He taught. There was never any revision of teaching or correcting of earlier errors. Men of all classes could understand Him – if they were willing to do the will of God alone (John 7:17). He always spoke in the language of the common man. His illustrations were always from the life that the common people were familiar with.

His personal life-style, like His message, was simple. His personal needs were few. He took His rough fishermen-disciples with Him to social functions without the slightest embarrassment. He was humble enough to accept invitations for meals, even when He knew that He could not return their hospitality. He had no desire to be quoted by others or by future generations as a scholar. His only ambition was to do His Father's will. His motives were crystal clear, and therefore His face and particularly His eyes were clear (for a man's face and eyes reflect his inner soul).


Jesus was a very observant man - a keen watcher of life around Him. This is evident from His parables and word-pictures.

He was well balanced intellectually and emotionally. He was intensely emotional, but He never allowed that to disturb His serenity of purpose. He was idealistic, but His idealism did not make Him forget the conditions in which men lived. His words to the Pharisees and to repentant sinners show His perfect poise. He never got irritated or upset with anyone, nor did He allow Himself to be carried away emotionally by the sight of human need.

He lived in the fear of God and without committing sin, and so His mind, emotions and will functioned perfectly. His inner life was totally free from the fear of the accidental. His mind made judgments not according to the information fed to it by His senses, but by actively seeking to hear His Father's voice (Isa. 11:3,4). And so any criticism He made was always right and always constructive.

Jesus used His imagination (Mt 9:36; Lk 10:19), but it always resulted in deeds of service. He thought in terms of concrete realities rather than abstract truths. He controlled His mind to think clearly, logically and positively. Yet as a Man, His mind had all the limitations that the normal human mind has (Mk 11:13, 13:32).

Jesus’ emotional life was involved in the interests of other people - never self-centred. As a Lover of men He shared the sorrows and joys of those around Him. He spoke the truth - but always in love. He entered into human suffering and is called “a man of sorrows” (Mk 7:34; 8:12). His preaching was full of emotional optimism. He was never discouraged. He rejoiced (Lk 10:21; Jn 15:11; 17:13); He was angry (Mk 3:5; 10:14; Mt 9:30; 16:23;21+12-17; Jn 2:13-22) and He was amazed twice – Matt. 8:10 (at someone’s faith) and Mark 6:6 (at the unbelief of some).

His will was set on seeking the glory of God alone. He controlled Himself in exciting situations. The enmity of His enemies and the advice of his friends never affected His decisions. Though possessing a strong will, He never once imposed His will on others. He never compelled anyone to do anything. He did not hold people to Himself by His soul-power.

Jesus was a man of prayer. There are 16 recorded instances of this in the gospels. These include prayers of thanksgiving (Mt 11:25; 26; Jn 11:41), intercession (Lk 22:32; 23:34; Jn 17), prayers for spiritual strengthening (Lk 3:21; 5:15-26; Mt 14:15-23; Jn 12:27; Lk 22:42) for wisdom (Mk 1:35ff; Lk 6:12,13), for revelation to be given to others (Lk 9:18-27; 28, 29; 11:1).

Jesus taught that prayer must be offered in humility (Lk 18:10-14), in sincerity (Mt 6:5-15), with obedience (Jn 15:7), with faith (Mk 11:24), and with fasting (Mt 17:21).


Jesus spoke as a King and with impassioned seriousness. He never spoke in the hesitating tone of a seeker after truth. His delivery was confident and authoritative and He compelled notice even by His tone.

His personal bearing and demeanour were authoritative. He never demeaned Himself to seek the goodwill of those with social or religious power. He carried Himself with the air of one whose resources would not fail even under the most critical and severe demands. His serenity was unbroken. His manner awed others (Lk 4:30; Mk 1:22; Jn 18:6).

He was careless of personal dangers (Lk 13:32) and courageously attacked sin. He even pointed out faults in His friends and His disciples. He always spoke directly to the heart.

He was definite in His own mind about the message He preached, and He knew how to adapt it to each opportunity. He read the signs of the times, sought the right moment for His message and knew when and what to speak. He never misplaced His anger. He knew how to meet each case upon its own merits. He adapted His ministry to the real issues of life (Mt 6:33), He never wasted His time talking about politics, science or poetry.

His power also lay in the fact that He was perpetually accessible to all men for their varied needs. People felt that they thus shared His life and that their burdens could be placed on Him. His graciousness drew others to Himself and His physical touch brought Him near to the sick.

Yet, in spite of His authority and power, He respected the dignity of man as a free moral agent having a freedom given him by God to choose. Jesus never used His power or authority to violate this freedom.

And so, the authority of Jesus came from

The anointing of the Holy Spirit that He received at His baptism.

His relationship with His Father, in which there was a perpetual poverty of spirit, a pouring out of His soul-life unto death, and a life of absolute purity and total obedience.

His sympathy with the needs of men.


The earthly life of Jesus lay between a birth in a cattle-shed and a death as a criminal. Neither of these would suggest a successful career in the eyes of the world. He never sought to be appreciated or recognized by any man.

Jesus made no effort to draw crowds to hear Him. When the crowds came (Lk 4:37; Jn 12:19) spontaneously He was not deceived. There were those who followed Him wholeheartedly and those who hated Him. There were conversions, discipleship, worship, loving ministries and appreciation, as well as defections, abuse and misunderstanding.

But He re-incarnated His message and Himself in the lives of His followers and turned them into the way of the cross. This was His success.


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