By David Faust
Preaching holds such an honored role in church history that the pulpit has been called “the sacred desk.” The word pulpit, however, rarely appears in the Bible. (The King James Version of Nehemiah 8:4 says Ezra “stood upon a pulpit of wood,” but the New International Version translates it “a high wooden platform.”) Scripture emphasizes the message itself, not the furniture from which the message is delivered.
Pulpits take many forms, from solid oak tables to wobbly lecterns to transparent Plexiglas podiums. A few fancy pulpits require the preacher to mount wooden steps to a perch that resembles the prow of a ship where he towers over the congregation below. In Europe there are ornate, immovable pulpits carved from stone. At the other extreme are those lightweight black metal music stands, which conveniently move up or down to adjust to the speaker’s height.
Where Jesus Preached
Jesus didn’t need a pulpit to make his points. He often taught outdoors while seated on a mountainside or in a boat (Matthew 5:1; Luke 5:3). He gave a lengthy lesson about the destruction of the temple and the end times while “sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple” (Mark 13:3-37). Another teaching moment arose when he “was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper” (Mark 14:3). Private homes often served as the Lord’s classroom and dinner tables as his pulpit.
In the Upper Room, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper and taught memorable lessons about servanthood and the work of the Holy Spirit (Mark 14:17-25; John 13:1–14:31). A garden called Gethsemane provided the setting for the Lord’s heartfelt prayers, along with instructions for his disciples and questions for those who betrayed and arrested him (Mark 14:32-50; Luke 22:39-53).
In the high priest’s court and the governor’s palace, Jesus boldly claimed to be the Messiah (Mark 14:62, John 18:19–19:16). He even used the cross as a pulpit, offering forgiveness to his torturers and hope to a dying thief (Luke 23:34, 43).
What Jesus Preached
In the first chapter of his Gospel, Mark sums up Jesus’ preaching in three concise points.
He preached good news. “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God” (Mark 1:14). The faithful preacher must proclaim the truth even when it hurts. But the bad news about sin must lead to grace and hope for the sinner, for if it doesn’t include good news, it isn’t the gospel.
He preached about the kingdom. “‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near’” (Mark 1:15a). Effective preaching points to the majesty of God, his purpose for the world, and his right to rule in the human heart.
He preached repentance and faith. “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15b). Solid biblical preaching leads to spiritual change, as godly sorrow for sin turns us from self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness. Gospel preaching leads believers to affirm Jesus’ identity, trust his promises, and surrender to his lordship. It naturally leads the repentant believer to be baptized in response to the instruction of Jesus and the apostles (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).
The power of the pulpit lies not in the preacher but in the truth itself. “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). That’s why when anyone proclaims the Word of God, no matter the size and shape of “the sacred desk,” it is a sacred task.
1. What kind of sermon do you find most helpful? Why?
2. What can you say or do to encourage your preacher?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for May 19, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
2 Corinthians 10
1 Samuel 24, 25
2 Corinthians 11:1–15
1 Samuel 26—28
2 Corinthians 11:16–33
1 Samuel 29—31
2 Corinthians 12:1–10
2 Samuel 1, 2
2 Corinthians 12:11–21
2 Samuel 3, 4
2 Corinthians 13
2 Samuel 5—7