Numbered List

One thing you should know about the Bible

This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21).

A recent article told how people can acquire more clicks on their websites by using “listicles.” Listicle is a newly coined term that refers to the trend of framing articles around lists. The titles often sound like this:

  1. “Four things you need to know about Forthright.net”
  2. “Five reasons why Forthright.net is the best site you’ll visit this week.”
  3. “Three websites you must visit right now (hint: you’re on one now).”

Bloggers, booksellers and other editors and writers aren’t the first to utilize the power of the listicle. The one thing you should know about the Bible is that the Author filled it with lists. 

For example, here are a few notable ones: the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Listicles often capitalize on the power of three – the natural tendency of readers to easily, naturally and comfortably follow lists of threes. They are teaching tools. They are simple. They are catchy.

There is an example of it I’d like to share with you from the words of Christ, in Luke’s gospel.

When Jesus returned to his home synagogue in Nazareth for the first time after his baptism, he stood up to read from the prophet Isaiah. In a fortuitous if not entirely providential coincidence, he read a passage that prophetically announced the beginning of his ministry:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19).

God has given us numerous “listicles” here. For example, notice first the Authority of Jesus’ ministry:

  1. anointed by God
  2. empowered by the Spirit
  3. sent by God

No true prophet served God without the approval of God (see: Matthew 3:13-17).

Now, look at the list of the Purpose of Jesus’ ministry, indicated by the six verbs:

  1. preach
  2. heal
  3. deliver
  4. recover
  5. free (set at liberty)
  6. preach

>You might notice within the list that #2-5 are parallels – different ways of saying the same thing.

>You might also notice the bookends (#1,6) made of the word “Preach,” essentially creating two lists of three.

>You might also notice that the middle terms are used metaphorically: they all imply spiritual sickness.

Finally, let us notice another list of six, with respect to the Objects of his ministry:

1. the poor
2. the brokenhearted
3. the captives
4. the blind
5. the bruised
6. the anticipating ones (those who were waiting for the acceptable year of the Lord)

(Again, you may notice that the use of parallels and metaphors.)

You might also begin to think of other parallel passages where Jesus actually said the same thing but in different words, like Luke 19:10, Matthew 5:1-12, and Matthew 11:4-6.

When you’re finished, you have yourself a nice little sermon skeleton, made up of the listicles that God provided. As they say in my line of work: that’ll preach!

Or, you might choose to memorize these with a mnemonic tool. For example, if you want to remember the purposes of Jesus’ ministry in this passage, you could…

  1. just remember the words themselves: (preach, heal, deliver, restore, free, preach);
  2. or, remember the first letters (PHDRFP),
  3. or, you could make up a sentence using the first letter of each word: (e.g., Peter Harper Delivered Restored Furniture Pronto).

You will become impressed, the more you study the Bible, how often God uses repetitious tools (“listicles,” if you want) to gain our attention, improve our memory, and impress eternal truths into our hearts.

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A graduate of West Virginia School of Preaching (2004), Rick has been in full-time ministry since then serving the church in Prestonsburg, KY (2004-2014), and Massillon, OH (2014-present). He enjoys spending time with his wife, Samantha, their six children, and enjoys writing, playing and writing music, a good cup of coffee and a hot wood stove. He hates shoveling snow and plans to buy a snow blower soon.

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