If ever there was a preacher who could "hit the nail on its head," it was Jesus. Jesus is our example in preaching. Jesus' teaching and preaching turned popular value constructs upside down. In Jesus' preaching, the first would be last, and the last would be first. Out of respect for government He would pay taxes to Caesar, but would not answer Pilate when interrogated. Though claiming divine prerogatives, He would throughout His public ministry be counted among the homeless. He indicated that the entrance requirements of His kingdom, which by His own testimony were love, mercy, and faith, were superior to popular religious scrupulosity.

Further analysis of the preaching of Jesus reveals that His preaching embraced the major elements of soteriology, eschatology, and pneumatology. These big words simply describe matters of salvation, lastday events, and the work of the Holy Spirit. In reference to soteriology (i.e., matters of salvation), Jesus believed that the rebirth of the individual was critical to entrance into the kingdom. That was His message to Nicodemus in John 3. The idea that persons could be born again was not new. In rabbinic Judaism the same notion existed. However, Jesus appears to supplement this idea of individual regeneration with a new element, namely ek hudatos kai pneumatos, out of water and spirit. Thus baptism and regeneration were close to the heart of Jesus. People who say that we as Adventists place too much emphasis upon baptism must not be reading what Jesus has to say. The problem is not baptism, it is our lack of emphasis on follow-up and nurture.

Another striking element of the preaching of Jesus was His apparent emphasis upon eschatology (i.e., doctrine of the last things). Jesus taught that this age would give way to the age to come. Though this fact is possibly surprising to some contemporary readers, that feature of the teaching of Jesus is not new. Much of the apocryphal intertestamental literature also asserted the ultimate destruction of history. By dividing history into epochs, (i.e., the periodization of history), apocryphal writers anticipated the interruption of history through the direct intervention of God. For them, the climax of the ages would be the dissolution of this evil age, which by definition stood irredeemable. Out of that destruction the establishment of a new order would emerge. For the teachers of Jesus' era Yahweh would commence a reign of righteousness.

Interestingly, while Jesus was in continuity with some of these beliefs, clearly He felt free to depart from many of them. For example, Jesus' preaching of the cataclysmic end of the evil age concurs with the assessment of the intertestamental apocalypticists─the people who wrote about the end of the world between Malachi and Matthew.

However, Jesus' preaching separates itself from the apocalypticists in at least two critical ways. First, for Jesus the end of the world appears to be messianically centered. Unlike His predecessors, Jesus (see Matthew) believed and taught that the Messiah would be the central actor in ushering in the last days. Whereas intertestamental documents (i.e., books written between Malachi and Matthew by uninspired authors such as the Syballine Oracles and 1 Enoch) held a messiahless closure of the evil age, Jesus held out for a final age in which Messiah would introduce the age to come with His own presence.

Second, Jesus' preaching differed from that of many of His contemporaries as to when the new age would commence and when the reign of God would arrive. In Mark Jesus announces that with His own appearance the kingdom had come. While many were looking into the future hoping for the kingdom to break into human history, Mark wanted his readers to know that in Jesus Christ the kingdom had already come. This is an important understanding for any preacher to hold. C. H. Dodd commented upon this aspect of New Testament theology:

From these (Matt. 12:28; Acts 2:16; 2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:13; 2 Cor. 3:18; Titus 3:5; Heb. 6:5; 1 Peter 1:23; 1 John 2:8) and many similar passages it is surely clear that, for the New Testament writers in general, the eschaton has entered history; the hidden rule of God has been revealed; the Age to Come has come.

Thus, to the degree that it was possible, the present evil age and the age to come would coexist in the Christian era. In this regard, the lay preaching of Jesus represented a radically new understanding of eschatology (last-day events). In fact, Jesus appears to have been so certain of this particular element in His preaching, that He could say─based on His followers' acceptance of His Messiahship─that for them the promised, eternal life belonging to the eschaton had already begun.

A third vital element in the preaching of Jesus appears to have been His teaching on the Spirit. Repeatedly, Jesus stressed the importance of the work of Parakletos (comforter). Long ago, in my first Greek class, Dr. E. E. Rogers taught me that Jesus could have used the Greek word for "another" which means "another of a different kind." But He didn't. Jesus promised another comforter "of the same kind." That means that Jesus promised that the Comforter would be just like Him. To Jesus this Comforter would, in His own absence, sustain His followers. Indeed, the coming of the Spirit would be the guarantor of Messiah's acceptance with God, and this presence of the Spirit would serve as the unbroken link between the ministry of Jesus and that of His disciples. Thus the followers of Jesus were commanded by Jesus to wait for the fulfillment of the promise. That is, they were to continue the lay ministry of Jesus but only after they had received the enablement which actuated Jesus in His ministry of lay preaching. Thus the book of Acts serves as a historical supplement of the Gospels, for Tidball pointed out that "the religion of Jesus Christ was from its beginning a missionary religion" and not an "introversionist sect."


Leslie Pollard, D.Min., Ph.D.. (candidate) teaches homiletics and New Testament courses while completing his doctorate in New Testament at the SDA Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan. This article is an excerpt from his preaching workshop syllabus, Preaching 2000! Developing Skills for the 21st Century, pages 14-19.