Missing Christ even in the gospels

Sinclair Ferguson writes this, in “Preaching Christ from the Old Testament”:

…(If my own assessment is correct) many sermons from the Gospels — where the focus is explicitly on the person of Jesus – never mind from the Old Testament, are far from Christ-centred.

How is this possible? The preacher has looked into the text principally to find himself and his congregation, not to find Christ. The sermon is consequently about ‘people in the Gospels’ rather than about Jesus Christ who is the gospel. The real question the preacher has been interested in asking and answering, is not ‘How do we find Christ in this Gospel?’ but ‘Where am I in this story? What have I got to do?’ Even although an entire series of such sermons on a Gospel is preached (as in the lectio continua method), we will not necessarily have communicated the basic life of Jesus. Instead we have been given an exploration of the human condition.

So there is a confused mindset here that raises a deeper question than, ‘Is there a formula that helps us to preach Christ from the Old Testament?’ The more fundamental issue is the question, ‘What am I really looking for when I am preaching on any part of the Bible? Am I really looking to tell people what they are like and what they must do —that is, am I really stressing the subjective and the imperative — or am I talking about Jesus Christ himself and the gospel? Do I stress the objec­tive and the indicative of the gospel in the light of which the subjective and imperative are to be considered? After all it is not the subjective (my condition) or the imperative (respond!) that saves or transforms people’s lives, but the objective and the indicative of God’s grace received subjectively in the light of the imperatives of the gospel.

I’ve been struck by his comment that too often we run first to “where are we in the text?” I think this is true. So often we take a text, and ask, “How will this minister to my people” rather than, “What is God telling me about Himself here?” This mistake leads us, despite our best intentions, to a man-centered trajectory, rather than a Christ-centered trajectory. We will wrestle faithfully, earnestly, prayerfully, sincerely with the text, and still end up preaching what is not there, because we were moving the wrong way when we encountered it.

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