“Oh pastor, what a lovely sermon”

In Acts 4, Peter and John are preaching to a crowd when the religious elite put an end to it and haul the two off to prison. No matter, for many had already believed prior to their censure and arrest. The next day rulers, elders, and scribes ask a question they likely regretted asking, namely, “By what power or by what name do you do this [speak of Jesus and resurrection and heal a crippled]?” Then Peter–walk on water and start drowning, deny Jesus 3 times, get called Satan by Jesus…that Peter–is filled with the Holy Spirit and speaks:

“Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has  been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11  This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” Acts 4:8-12.

The sermon is short and sweet and not seeker friendly. But it’s the response of the hearers where I pause and think of myself and other preachers: 13  Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

These are NOT Bible college, seminary-trained preachers (yes, preachers/pastors should be trained in my opinion). I highly doubt they debated finer points of doctrine. Rather, they had been with Jesus. For three years they walked with him and sat under his teaching and witnessed his ways. Then, to the best of their knowledge, they did what Jesus did. They preached boldly and healed the lame, by the power of the Holy Spirit. But it was made possible because they had been with Jesus.

After preaching a sermon I cannot recall ever longing to hear someone say to me, “You’ve been with Jesus.”


I’ve longed to hear, “The way you broke down that text made it clearer than ever before!” or “That illustration really struck me in a personal way.” or “You must have studied a long time to deliver such a detailed exegesis.” Other preachers long to hear, whether in person or through the grapevine, how creative or funny or engaging or passionate they were. Those are not bad things, mind you.

But I can’t imagine a more satisfying and simultaneously humbling response as someone saying to me, “You’ve been with Jesus.” The question it seems, then, is whether pastors and preachers spend time with Jesus or simply listen to and read the works of others who have been with Jesus.

In other words, if I quote Matt Chandler or  Dallas Willard or Francis Chan or Eugene Peterson more than I quote Jesus, I’ve not been with Jesus. They have. But I haven’t. Oh that our words and our lives would exude Jesus to the measure of Peter and John!That people would talk about us and have nothing to say except, “They’ve been with Jesus.”


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