Preaching Articles

If you are preaching in the next few days then I would hope Easter is in the mix.  Of course, the cross of Christ is at the very center of global history and God’s salvation plan.  A question we face as preachers is just how gory does the presentation need to be?

Crucifixion was incredibly graphic and deliberately so.  In a culture where people killed their dinner, and where blood flowed freely in the temple courts, in a culture so far removed from the clean and sanitized version of life that we enjoy today, crucifixion was still a massive visual deterrent.  While some today might not fear a few months in prison for committing a crime, the Roman cross was massively feared.

So should we seek to paint the power of the deterrent by the words we use to describe what Christ went through?  Different preachers might lean in different directions.  Some seem to delight in the opportunity to make people squirm, describing in graphic detail just what the nails did to the wrists and feet, the agony of every breath, the ultimate cause of death, etc.  Others go to the other extreme and paint a picture as beautiful as the stained glass windows where Jesus seems barely marked by the whole process.

The truth is that if we saw what Christ went through at the hands of the mocking soldiers and then at Calvary, I suspect we would all feel sick to the core.  But is that the point of our preaching?

Perhaps it is a good idea to stun and shock people out of a religious view of the crucifixion.  Or perhaps it is better not to overwhelm people with gore so that they miss the real issue.  A few brief thoughts:

1. Who are your listeners?  

What do they need?  What would be most effective for them?  Might they feel like they experienced something unexpected and before any watershed times that may still exist on TV?  It is possible to be deeply moved by the cross without being made to feel ill.

2. What is the text? 

Remember you are preaching the text or texts, so what is emphasized there?  It is too easy in “familiar” bits of Bible history to leap from the text to preaching the event itself.  Maybe in this case that is legitimate, but don’t give up the distinctive value of each inspired text too easily.

3. What is your purpose?  

Remember that there is more to preaching the cross than stirring a gut reaction to the brutality of what Christ went through for us.  At the same time, perhaps you prayerfully decide that the offense of the cross is needed by those to whom you will be preaching.  No hard and fast rules here, just a plea for prayerful sensitivity to God and those present.

Peter Mead is involved in the leadership team of a church plant in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at and recently authored Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014). Follow him on Twitter

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Christopher L. Moore

commented on Apr 5, 2012

Call me crazy, but the truth should be preached as such. The message should never change depending on the audience. The Word is for all people to hear. Try speaking the truth and worry less about the meat in the seat and the money in the plate.

Jeff Martin

commented on Apr 5, 2012

Bro. Peter, I sincerely believe that God will direct us as we prepare the message. I was thinking of what I knew about crucifixion while I was reading your post and realized that much of what I know has come from historical accounts of Roman crucifixion. The four gospel accounts remain, for the most part, silent about the cruelty of crucifixion. The most graphic part of the gospel accounts is after Jesus died and was pierced with a sword which brought forth blood and water. I'm not saying that we should never preach how bloody the cross truly was because "without the shedding of blood there is no remission". I'm simply saying that God will lead us how to preach the Glorious Cross. Could it be that the Bible remains mostly silent on the "gore" of the cross because God is trying to get us to focus on the eternal significance of the transaction that took place there? On the spiritual rather than the physical?

Robert Sickler

commented on Apr 5, 2012

If the graphic nature of Jesus' death were all that vital I would think it would be thus detailed in the bible. In my humble opinion, today's culture views violence as entertainment. Jesus was killed ... but the real story is that he was resurrected!

John E Miller

commented on Apr 6, 2012

I believe that taking this article in its whole context is a very good guide. The accounts that we have of the humiliation, torture and brutality that Jesus suffered are indeed graphic if we care to study the New Testament texts carefully. If we add the tremendously powerful prophetic references in the Psalms and Isaiah for example, scripture does not conceal the brutality of the crucifiction or the horrendous humiliation that preceded and accompanied it. Most people get their mental picture of the cross from works of art. The word of God paints an entirely different, unsanitised picture. I appreciate the thoughts in this article.

Kevin Brown

commented on Mar 25, 2013

This was very well spoken. It is vital to know what the focus of the message is. Is Easter is about the love of God or the brutality of Man? I have to admit that there seems to be a greater focus on the latter than the former. Audience matters only in terms of method, however the message is not affected by the audience.

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