Preaching Jesus as Savior: Five Classic Models

“Do I have to include the cross and resurrection in every sermon?” Some preachers prefer to highlight Jesus’s incarnation and earthly ministry. However, without his passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus often gets reduced to just another wise teacher or holy role model. People need Jesus the Savior before Jesus as anything else because, during every sermon, someone in the congregation is in some way dying—physical, spiritual, vocational, psychological, or relational death. 

In this retreat, we will consider how to preach Jesus as Savior. Both the New Testament and the church describe God’s self-disclosure in Jesus Christ as mystery. Paul speaks of “the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4–5). Roman Catholics call Jesus’s passion, death, and resurrection the “Paschal mystery,” and Lutherans “proclaim the mystery of faith—Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” The gospel is a mystery because God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ is an experience of God’s intervention in history that requires interpretation. The Gospel writers illustrate this need for interpretation in their accounts of Jesus’s passion, death, and resurrection.             

To preach Jesus’s death and resurrection is to explore and reflect upon a holy mystery and not to explain and apply concepts, formulas, or doctrines. Preaching Jesus as Savior is diminished when preachers equate the death and resurrection of Jesus with a specific interpretation. Any single interpretation confines rather than expands the meaning and relevance of Jesus’s passion, death, and resurrection. A single interpretation speaks to some but not all. When preachers are uncomfortable or disagree with what they think is the only interpretation of the gospel, Jesus’ death and resurrection may disappear from sermons altogether as Jesus is presented as something other than Savior. 

At this retreat, we will explore and reflect upon preaching God’s once and for all saving mystery in Jesus Christ using the church’s understandings of God’s self-disclosure in Christ, which unfolded over the centuries. Our goal is to move from the theological to the practical and relevant, including identifying strategies for preaching, so that participants go away with a set of “preaching tools” they can use to proclaim Jesus as Savior.

Our presenter, Robert A. Krieg, Professor Emeritus of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, asserts that, today, the church embraces at least five classic models of “the Lord Jesus as the bearer of salvation, as the God-man who has opened the way for all people in the Spirit to receive salvation, that is, personal wholeness in union with God and in communion with other people and the rest of God’s creation” Dr. Krieg names these models

  • The Representative
  •  The Victim/Victor
  • The Reconciler/Innocent Penitent
  • God’s Agape Embodied
  • The Substitute

To varying degrees, each type or model enjoys acceptance among the various Christian traditions. Each model or type illuminates aspects of the saving mystery of Jesus Christ that the others do not bring into focus. Thus, they overlap and exist side-by-side. Rather than settling on a single or even a closed set of interpretations on how Jesus saves, these models can serve as inspiration or catalyst for fresh perspectives and insights.

In addition to presentation and conversation, the retreat will include time for worship, fellowship, prayer, and reflection.

Retreat Logistics and Registration

Monday, October 21 – Wednesday, October 23, 2024
Bethany House, St. Francis Retreat Center., Dewitt, Michigan
$180 – Fee covers food and lodging

The retreat is possible because of a generous gift from Ms. Christine Allen, former secretary of the North/West Lower Michigan Synod.

Register Now

The deadline to register is October 14, 2024.


Registrants will receive handouts to review prior to the retreat.


The schedule is a work in progress and is subject to change. It is intended to demonstrate the flow of the retreat rather than provide exact times.

Monday, October 21, 2024

12:00 PMLunch
1:30 PMReading and Reflection: Mark 14:1-16:8
2:15 PMIntroduction to the retreat, Dr. Krieg, one another (in triads).
3:00 PMBreak
3:30 PMThe Representative: Presentation and Conversation
5:00 PMReception
6:00 PMDinner
7:15 PMReading and Reflection: Matthew 26:14-28:10
8:30 PMNight Prayer
9:00 PMKoinonia

Tuesday, October 22, 2024

8:00 AMBreakfast
8:45 AMPrayer
9:00 AMThe Victim/Victor: Presentation and Conversation
10:30 AMBreak
11:00 AMReading and Reflection: Luke 22:14-24:12
12:00 PMLunch
1:00 PMThe Reconciler/Innocent Penitent: Presentation and Conversation
2:30 PMBreak
3:30 PMGod’s Agape Embodied: Presentation and Conversation
5:00 PMBreak
6:00 PMDinner
7:15 PMReading and Reflection: John 18:1-20:18
8:30 PMEucharist
9:15 PMKoinonia

Wednesday, October 23, 2024

8:00 AM Breakfast
8:45 AM Prayer
9:00 AMThe Substitute: Presentation and Conversation
10:30 AMBreak
11:00 AMWhat do we need to be saved from? Preaching Strategies with Bishop Satterlee
11:45 AMConcluding Prayer
12:00 PMLunch