“Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:1–9, KJV)
Who: Jesus, the Pharisees
What: Arguing about ritual cleanliness
When: This comes just before the Lord ministers to a Gentile for the first time, the Syro-phonician woman.
Why: What is commanded?
How: Jesus Christ ultimately points to the heart, and not to the letter. The Pharisees ultimately point to the letter, and the heart is up to you.
We’ve gotten a lot already. This is traditionally enough to preach this, but… traditionally is not enough. We’re aiming for excellence in preaching. Preaching much change lives, or we need to go home after the three hymns that we only sing three verses of. I think I’ve made that point well.
Some books on preaching – listen, a brief rant on books on preaching. If you’ve never heard of the author, maybe they should be reading YOUR book on preaching I’ve read several books on preaching, and let me tell you, I’m really good at spotting a book that has nothing to say. There’s one famous book about Evangelism I read as part of my Seminary training (because there’s precious few books on it), and the man I was talking to about it was a Methodist pastor. He took a little offense, and said it was written by one of HIS Seminary professors. My response was, “HE had nothing to say, and spent a lot of time saying nothing. Tell him next time to make sure he has something to say before he writes a book.”
Here’s a line from that book – “Jesus had no method for Evangelism – He WAS His method.”
Wow. Told you everything you need to know about evangelizing the lost, huh? Betcha the hallways in Hell will be empty this afternoon!
Getting back to my point, some books on preaching try to emphasize the “One big idea”. That’s great, but what if the passage has… three big ideas? We need to preach the text, and teach the application of that text.
Ready for the One Big message here? I’m seeing three, but here you go… make a note… it’s the one your congregation has already figured out… are you waiting? Ready…
Christianity is not ritual, but Relationship.
If you want to alliterate, change it to Religion. But be aware that’s a bad word in the eyes of American Baptists. We don’t need religion, we need Truth. Biblical truth.
Ready for the one big message here? “Wait, we just had one!”
Yeah, I know. That’s why I hate when books tell you, “find the one big message!” Okay, go find the one big message in Job.
How about “Tradition is no substitute for the word of God”?
I actually see that big message in the text as well. So forget the one big message nonsense, and preach the text.
Ready for the three preaching points? Here’s how I’m seeing them.
- Why do we allow traditions to violate the word of God?
- Why do we abandon the Bible in favor of Tradition?
- Why do we not see this as hypocrisy?
So, at this point, I’ve opened a sermon document in Logos, and prepped it up. It took one minute to get the order of service in there, the text of the sermon (takes three seconds – if you put Mt 15.1-9 by itself on a line, it automatically puts the entire reference so you can look at it while writing), and my three points I just gave. Now, I’m hoping some of you read the text, and decided that these aren’t the three points you’re seeing. That’s great, start writing the sermon your way. Essentially, the point here is to confirm you’re getting the right inference from the Bible.
And that’s why yesterday we quickly read through our commentaries. If a man is saved, the same Holy Spirit that hopefully is helping me to write this will have given the same illumination to other men throughout the ages. You have to be careful of course with commentaries. I have little use for most modern commentaries, because let me tell you, there’s a lot of famous pastors and theologians who I think you need to stop on the street and give them a tract, because they are completely unfamiliar with the Gospel.
But a good way to check your interpretation is to see if some commentaries are going in the same direction you are. It’s really funny, I tend to find a favorite commentary and stay with it a while, and then disregard. I remember reading a lot of John Gill years ago, then Adam Clarke. Matthew Henry is the old standby of course. I got the Bible Knowledge commentary last year for Wordsearch, which is terrible because now I don’t use Wordsearch all that much!
Okay, the images show you the form of the sermon as I put them. Notice the timer on the sermon! It’s got my sermon at 2 minutes already. Most pastors are allowing themselves 35 minutes to preach. You’ve got 33 minutes left.
From my points, I can already see the tone I’m going to be taking in this sermon. You CANNOT deliver this sermon in a cheerful, “That’s okay, Jesus Loves us anyway” tone of voice. This is a serious sermon. There’s a little anguish in there. There’s a little anger in there.
Now, you’ve got some soul searching to do.
“Is everything at your church conform to the Bible? Is any of it tradition that violates the word of God?”
(Uncomfortable congregation moment)
Let that HANG! If you’re soul searching, and preaching on hypocrisy, this may be a house cleaning moment! Let’s expand that thought.
We do things at our house, at our job, in our prayer life, in our Bible reading… and we do them because it’s our habit! It’s our tradition! And if it violates or makes the word of God of none effect, then it is no less hypocrisy in our dining room than it was that day in Galilee.
We’re not writing the sermon yet, but I’m sitting in my thoughts, looking over the points. You’ll see I took the big message nonsense and made that the final point of the sermon. Relationship, not ritual.
It might help to actually repeat that phrase a couple of times throughout the sermon. Make your point, and use that phrase as punctuation.
All right, the sermon is taking shape. I’m a firm believer in “You have to know where you’re going to know how to get there.” Remember, some of the stuff I’m teaching here is not just for pastors!