Sermon Illustrations: Why God Is A Comedian


I like to use sermon illustrations because it allows me to paint a practical picture or ask an overarching question that everyone can relate to. This week's Illustration tells why life should be a comedy and not a tragedy. In this post, my sermon illustrations walk through the traditional Shakespearean formulas of a good story and how everything comes down to the the crux, or Cross of Calvary.

Is life tragic, or is it comic?

In Shakespeare’s dramas, there were two main types of plays: the tragedy and the comedy. There really wasn’t much middle ground. Either the story was tragic or comic.

The tragedy’s plot line was simple: things started bad and went to worse. Example: a play starts with “something rotten in Denmark,” and ends with everyone dead in the final scene.

The comedy is a bit different than what we think of in 21st century America. In our world, a classic comedy would be Animal House, but a truly classic comedy would be something like Much Ado About Nothing. Our comedies involve lots of drinking, very little clothing, and lazy use of language. In a more sophisticated day, comedy was understood as a plot line where there was initial tension and then resolution. In other words, things started off mildly bad and turned out good.

The key to watching one of Shakespeare’s plays was paying attention to Act III. During Act III, right in the middle of the story, there was a turning point that determined whether you were watching a tragedy or a comedy. [1]

If the turning point went South, then you knew that the play would certainly end badly, probably with several incestuous revelations and suicides.

For the comedy, just the opposite was true. In Act III, when the crucial moment arrived, tension was resolved. From that point on, the audience could rest assured that all would be well in the end.

The technical term for this moment is the crux of the play. It comes from a Latin word from which “crucial” is drawn. There’s another English word that is drawn from crux: cross.

All of history is a drama. There will be a tension between good and evil. We’ll all be wondering whether the end of the story will be despairing or hopeful – tragic or comic.

And all of history hinges on the cross.

When Christ died at Calvary, the crux was revealed. The cross was the turning point that changed everything. Before that moment, all was undecided, hazy, and the future was uncertain.

Because of the cross, history is actually more secure for us. And even better than in a Shakespearean play. It’s better because we’re not just an audience – we are the actors.

Of course, the key to living in this drama of life is remembering Act III, and believing it is the turning point. Without it, the future is uncertain. Without it, calm is impossible. But because of the crux of Calvary, death has lost its sting.

As you prepare your sermon illustrations, consider Shakespeare's art of a good story and the turning point of the cross.

How do you approach your sermon illustrations?

[1] My learning on drama and theology comes straight from one of my favorite professors, Dr. Ralph C. Wood, who now teaches at Baylor University. His book, The Comedy of Redemption, explains these principles with more depth and knowledge than I have here. I thank Ralph for permission to cite his invaluable work.