I recently had a conversation on the subject of Christ’s preaching as a model for our preaching today with a couple of seasoned and respectable pastors/educators. I have had some initial thoughts on this subject for some time now which are not yet well formulated. My initial statement is that Christ’s preaching is not a model for our preaching today. (Don't even get me started on Jesus' parables as a model for story-teller preaching today!) I may offer a few points of reasoning for why I hold the view that Christ's preaching is not a model for contemporary preaching.
First, Christ did not intend to model how to preach for pastors in pulpits today. Since that was not His intention, we should be wary of making His ministry out to be something that it was not. Life and ministry is not as simple as WWJD (What would Jesus do?). Christ was perfect, sinless, and blameless. We are far from that mark and are works-in-progress. On several occasions Jesus was clear that He was exemplifying something. The footwashing event in John 13 comes to mind. Yet, for the most part, Christ was living the life that we have not and cannot live. He was truly the Prince of preachers, and I am merely trying my best to explain God's word to people each week. If Christ did not intend to model preaching, we should be careful to use His preaching as a model.
Second, when Christ proclaimed the Good News of the kingdom of God,
He spoke as God. At times He quoted from the Old Testament and then expounded upon it, but for the most part He spoke autonomously as God-incarnate. Of course, we do not dare to speak this way. Bible-believing Christians admit that Jesus spoke as God. Preachers today do not speak as God, but only as heralds of what God has already done and said in history.
The second point leads to the third, Christ’s preaching and ministry are actually the content of our preaching today and not the model. I preach the narrative passages in the Gospels of Jesus deeds. I also preach the passages that report some of the content of His preaching. For example, I do not try to approach preaching the way Christ did in the Sermon on the Mount, but I actually use the Sermon on the Mount as the content of my own preaching.
Fourth, Christ’s ministry was so vastly different from a local pastor’s today, that I cannot see how one can actually draw comparisons between the two without having to stretch the points quite a bit (which I think the author has done). Jesus was a traveling preacher who spoke to various audiences. He certainly preached much of the same content time and again with an emphasis on evangelism and new revelation. On the other hand, the local pastor stands in the same pulpit every week while speaking to the same audience for (hopefully) several years (if not his entire ministry).
Lastly, there are obviously numerous references to the preaching of Christ and many things can be determined based on those references, but on the whole we do not have much detail or elaboration as to the content and "how to" of the Lord’s preaching ministry. With such a small sampling, we should be careful to draw conclusions about Christ's preaching ministry.
In summary, let me say that the preceding statements are simply initial thoughts on the subject and not well-developed arguments. I am open to changing my opinion on the subject, but it would be difficult at this point. I love to study preaching and preachers, and I thoroughly enjoy a biblical study of Christ's preaching. I simply find it difficult to use the Lord's preaching as a model for my preaching today. I will continue to study and teach/preach, be the best expositor that I can be, and pray that the Holy Spirit uses that work to apply it to the hearts of the hearers.