Chapter 5

The Surprise in Every Text

If you haven't found the unexpected, you haven't fully understood the text.

Why do you value surprise in your preaching?

I want to talk about a text in a way that's fresh. If people have heard the text a hundred times, how can I preach so that it comes across like we're there with the disciples and we're hearing Jesus say this for the first time? What would we have thought? How would this have struck us?

So many things Jesus said and did were surprising. It was either a good surprise or, for some people, an unhappy surprise. So how do I capture that again?

How do you prepare for a surprise in a sermon?

One way is to see and feel the story behind what's happening in the text. There's a story behind everything, some more obvious than others.

For instance, this Sunday I'm preaching on Matthew 11 where John is in prison, and he's wondering whether Jesus is really the one. As I approach that text, I want to feel what John was feeling—his sense of wondering and disappointment: It's just not panning out the way I thought it would. I'm ...

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