Preaching Easter (Pt2): Shock and Awe

I expect we would agree that the typical crucifixion image that comes to mind is probably a little too “hygienic.” The traditional pictures seen in old churches with the Lord serene and clean, hanging on the cross with a minimal element of humiliation are so far from the brutal reality of the event. Those pictures, combined with the regularity with which we refer to the cross, lead many believers to have an unrealistic mental picture of Calvary.

As we preach the Easter story in the next days, we have the opportunity to tell the story well. We can give enough description, and take enough time, so that the image is able to form in peoples’ minds. We can give enough description so that the image forming is more accurate, less “clean” and closer to what actually happened. Historical and biblical accuracy should permeate our preaching of this great event.

However, this does not mean we should automatically “go all out.” It may be that overly graphic detail is unhelpful to some. I’ve heard some very effective presentations of the crucifixion that went into the medical details and the sickening truth of the event. I’ve also heard some where the “shock and awe” tactic backfired significantly. We must be aware of who will be listening and what will be most effective for them. Our goal is to present the biblical truth and call for response, not to repulse people with images that obscure the message. Remember that people will be drawn and convicted by the Holy Spirit, not by our skill in story telling that can stir the emotions into a frenzy.

Let’s try to find the right balance for our listeners this Easter. We need to tell the story well, we need to help people see and feel the reality of Calvary. But we also need to be careful to allow the Holy Spirit to stir the heart, rather than merely stirring the stomach by excessive shock and awe tactics.

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