patty kirk

patty kirk lying down, getting up, sitting at home, walking down the road doing deuteronomy 6:7

Monday, February 25, 2013

why he came

I have heard Jesus called a great doctor. (The great “physician,” actually, but I can’t stand puffed up words like that—like attorney in lieu of lawyer, purchase in lieu of buy, in lieu of instead of instead of). And I’ve heard him called a great teacher. But I’ve never heard Jesus referred to as a great preacher.

Which is odd, seeing as how that’s what he came to do. Or anyway, that’s what he tells Simon and his buddies:
          “Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’
          So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. (Mark 2:38 NIV)
Matthew writes that, after John the baptizer was imprisoned for badmouthing Herod, “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’” (Matthew 4:17).

I guess you could argue that such preaching was teaching—that preaching and teaching are six of one, half dozen of the other. But Matthew actually goes out of his way to differentiate the two actions: “After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee” (Matthew 11:1).

He taught (διδάσκω, didaskō) and preached (κηρύσσω, kēryssō). (And also “instructed” his disciples, for which Matthew uses a different verb—διατάσσω, diatassō—which means something more along the lines of giving directions or training.)

So why not call Jesus The Great Preacher?
Certainly he was successful at it. “Everyone is looking for you!” Simon and his friends tell him (Mark 1:37), and from then on, when people found out he was in town, “They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them” (Mark 2:2).

Maybe we don’t call Jesus The Great Preacher because the word preacher has so much negative baggage. One preacher preaches one thing, another another. And there are false preachers. And scandals involving preachers.

And when we speak of preachers we mean those who tell us about Jesus, whereas what Jesus preached, early on, was largely the message of the whole Bible. Repent. And he preached from the Bible—literally reading forth what was written there and adding little to it besides “Heads up! This prophecy is happening right now” (Mark 4:21, my paraphrase).

Nevertheless, we’re told—although he soon made them so mad they wanted to toss him off a cliff—initially, at least, they were impressed with his preaching: “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips” (Mark 4:22). That must have been some sermon!

I think we think that Jesus came to Earth pretty much exclusively to die for us. And maybe, secondarily, to explain some spiritual stuff to us that we’re too stupid to figure out on our own. I think he also came, though, simply to preach the word. To tell us, in person, with his own mouth, the good news of himself.

1 comment:

  1. I, too, think that Jesus came for many reasons. Here are some reasons the Bible says he came (I quoted the verse for the ones that might be hard teaching): to heal, to teach, to preach, to witness (John 1:7), to bring division (Luke 12:51), to suffer + die + be glorified, to fulfill the law (Mat 5:17), to bring a sword to earth and turn people against each other (Mat 10:34-35), to bring fire on the earth (Luke 12:49), to do the will of the Father, for judgment (John 9:39), so his sheep may have life, & as a light. Apparently the reason he came was large enough that it was hard to sum up in one statement and no single statement should be taken at the exclusion of the others.

    As I am writing this, I am reminded how important reading the Bible is - not just one part of the Bible - the whole Bible. It is a cohesive work from beginning to end. People have made whole religions using one quote of why Jesus has come. For instance, take "he came to preach" at the exclusion of all other stated reasons - I have heard people say that Jesus was only a good man with good philosophies. Consider how often Jesus is described as ever-loving, ever-forgiving, and infinitely-tolerant. This hardly jibes with he came for judgment, he came to turn people against each other, or he came to bring fire on the earth.