One of my problems with the yearly celebration of the first advent of Christ is that there is so little support for celebrating such a day in Scripture. When we look at Mark’s gospel, he completely ignores the birth of Christ. The Apostles never speak of it other than the birth accounts given in Matthew, Luke, and John. But what they all do speak to is the purpose of Christ’s coming. In Mark, Jesus declares His purpose early on in His ministry:
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;[a] repent and believe in the gospel.” (Emphasis added).
Notice the first thing that Jesus does: He preaches. He proclaims the necessity of repentance and belief in the gospel. He doesn’t set out to change the world through social advocacy. He doesn’t set out to be nice. He doesn’t set out to comfort people in their sin. He confronts them with their need to repent of their sin and trust in the gospel.
His purpose was to preach the gospel. We see this also later on in chapter 1:
And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Jesus tells us His purpose: preaching the gospel. There is no message more important than preaching the gospel. It is central to our faith and the power unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17).
This is the main purpose of the pastor. There is no greater calling to those men in the ministry than preaching the same message that Christ preached. Sadly, far too many pastors fail in this regard. They falsely think that they are to be the congregations counselor, or life coach. They think that their messages must always be upbeat, positive and winsome. They are trying to help their church members feel good about themselves.
This attitude severely misses the mark and saturates every denomination, including my own. I remember hearing of one minister who was severely criticized by fellow ministers because he didn’t get out in the community and spent too much time on his sermons. He, and his elders, were convinced that this was his primary calling. It was the job of the congregation to be out in the community. The pastor was, and is, to feed Christ’s sheep. That can only come through the preaching of God’s word.
I like what J.C. Ryle says about this passage and preaching:
Let us never be moved by those who cry down the preacher’s office, and tell us that sacraments and other ordinances [or other duties] are of more importance than sermons. Let us give to every part of God’s public worship it proper place and honor, but let us beware of placing any part of it above preaching.
By preaching, the Church of Christ was first gathered together and founded, and by preaching, it has ever been maintained in health and prosperity. By preaching, sinners are awakened. By preaching, inquirers are led on. By preaching, saints are built up. By preaching, Christianity is being carried to the heathen world. There are many now who sneer at missionaries, and mock at those who go out into the high-ways of our own land, to preach to crowds in the open air. But such person would do well to pause, and consider calmly what they are doing.
The very work they ridicule is the work which turned the world upside down, and cast heathenism to the ground. Above all, it is the very work which Christ Himself undertook.
The King of kings and LORD of lords Himself was once a preacher. For three long years He went to and fro proclaiming the Gospel. Sometimes we see Him in a house, sometimes on the mountain side, sometimes in a Jewish synagogue, sometimes in a boat on the sea. But the great work He took up was always one and the same. He came always preaching and teaching. ‘Therefore,’ He says, ‘came I forth.’
Perhaps we would do well to follow our Master’s lead. If preaching was so important to Christ, perhaps those called to preach the gospel would actually do well to preach the gospel as Jesus did. Peter did it. Paul did it. Why do we think ourselves so wise that we can live without the preaching of God’s word?