Years ago, I brought a group of high school students to a Christian conference in California. The first night, hundreds of high schoolers packed into the gymnasium to worship God and hear a message from the guest preacher. The preacher took the stage and gave a compelling sermon about how much we should love people. While the content was true and good, I walked out that night with a funny feeling about the sermon. Something was not right. Then, I realized the problem: The preacher made no mention of Jesus.
Is a sermon really a sermon without Jesus? More specifically, is a sermon ever complete without the preaching of the Gospel? I do not believe so. Every sermon should find its resolution in the Gospel—the good news of Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection to pay the penalty of our sins so that all who believe in him may receive forgiveness. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the defining belief that distinguishes a Christian message from every other religious or self-help talk. A sermon without the Gospel is incomplete.
All Scripture Is Fulfilled in Jesus
To understand why the Gospel should be in every sermon, we must look back to the first Easter. On the day of Jesus’ resurrection, Luke records that two disciples walked the seven-mile road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. While they talked about the breaking news of Jesus’ resurrection, trying to make sense of it all, a man joined them. It was Jesus, but they did not recognize him. Jesus acted like he did not know what happened, so the disciples explained everything they knew to him. Eventually, Jesus interjected by pointing out that this man they spoke of was obviously the Messiah. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets,” Luke writes, “he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27, ESV).
We cannot miss the significance of this: Jesus explained not how the New Testament (yet to be written) speaks about him, he explained how the writings in the Old Testament all point forward to himself. In other words, the Old Testament is only fulfilled and fully understood in light of Jesus. The Gospel is the key to understanding the Old Testament.
Upon hearing this, the disciples realized that this man they were speaking with was none other than Jesus, himself! But before they could say another word, Jesus disappeared from their sight. In amazement, they ran back to Jerusalem to tell everyone about what happened. While they were telling the story to the other disciples back in Jerusalem, Jesus appeared in the room. “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:44-45, emphasis added). Once again, Jesus explained how the Old Testament was fulfilled through him, and upon this realization, we read that the disciples’ minds were opened to a fuller understanding of Scripture.