Friday, January 13, 2012

What is the Gospel?

Jesus is explosive, not the man but what he represents. Some could argue he is not safe. Historians and scholars have not come to a consensus about Jesus for 2000. I do not have any thoughts of grandeur that I will be able to make sense of him in a post of 500 words and yet, I’m intrigued by the question, is Jesus safe?  When I have questions, I look for answers and I’ve invited you to pick through the gospel of Mark with me to [hopefully] discover new revelation to the age-old debate.

Mark 1:14-15, Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.

These are not Jesus’ first recorded words, but they are the first words of Jesus in the book of Mark, and they tell us quite a bit about the course Mark is going to take in his writing. I grew up in the church and these words have been rendered innocuous by their familiarity but they are in fact, quite explosive.

The Jews were waiting for a new kingdom to be established. They assumed the kingdom would overthrow the oppressive Roman government and they would be established as a favoured people – as they had been before. The first statement, the time is fulfilled, carries with it the meaning there is a critical situation that demands a decision. Jesus then explains what decision must be made – change your way of thinking (repent). The kingdom of God is at hand and it looks different than was anticipated. The kingdom of God is at hand and that is the gospel. It is as true now as it was then.

What is the gospel? If the question were asked in a church environment, inevitably someone would answer the gospel is translated ‘good news’. If pressed further to explain what the good news is, someone might clarify it is the death and resurrection of Jesus so our sins are forgiven. Then, after having satisfied the question, the matter would be considered closed. Except...I’m not satisfied, because more than once Jesus is quoted as preaching the gospel and directing his disciples to do the same - and he wasn’t dead yet.

The word ‘gospel’ in Mark 1:15, is the Greek word euangelion and is the equivalent to the Hebrew word b√Ęsowrah, which simply means ‘news’ and it has the implication the messenger is the news. The phrase, “don’t shoot the messenger,” no doubt has its beginnings in ancient culture where indeed if the news were bad, the messenger most likely lost his [or her] life (for example, 2 Samuel 4:10). The inference is clear - Jesus is the gospel; he is the news.

Jesus begins his ministry with this explosive idea and the rest of the book of Mark (and the other gospels) is an account of the kingdom of God in action and why Jesus is the news. Next week, we’ll look at his ministry in an on-going quest to answer the question, is Jesus safe?

I’m learning as I’m writing and I’m interested in other thoughts and ideas about this; start a discussion in the comments.

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