The beginning of the good news [gospel] of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. —Mark 1:1
Imagine that an unbelieving friend comes up to you and asks, “What does your Christianity have to offer me and the world? What has it done for you?” How would you answer?
This would not have been an uncommon question faced by the early church. People of that time were very “spiritual” as they are now; there were many pagan religions each competing for adherents, just as there are now. There were many Christian heresies, just as there are now. What did this genuine Christian religion offer that none of the others did? In our culture obsessed with marketing and packaging, this is an increasingly common question to us as people bring their shopping mindset to their spirituality.
An obvious answer is that Christianity is true and none of the other religions are. Scripture clearly calls upon us to “contend for the faith” (Jude 3); however, in my experience people often stare facts in the face and choose otherwise if what they hear conflicts with their chosen lifestyle. Beyond the bare facts of Christianity, what does Jesus offer the world? How is the Kingdom of God different from the Kingdom of Me or any other Kingdoms of the pagan gods? In other words, what has Kingdom-of-God living brought to your life?
In Mark’s first verse, above, he tells us that the next 16 chapters of his writing are all the good news of Jesus, and there is a lot about which Mark writes: healings, forgiveness, exorcisms, teachings on wise living, miracles with food, confrontations with religious and political leaders, death, and resurrection. For you, the good news of Jesus may be any or many of these things depending on the circumstances of your life and the point in your journey with Jesus.
Here is how the good news manifested itself in the life of one woman. In Luke’s recounting, there was a woman, by tradition it was Mary Magdalene the prostitute, who came to a dinner for Jesus hosted by Simon the Pharisee. We hear how the woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and poured an expensive oil on His head to cool it (Luke 7:40-50), Jesus remarks to Simon that the motivation for this woman’s loving actions toward Him is because she recognizes that her many sins have been forgiven. One can imagine how a social outcast, as this woman clearly was, would respond to being accepted by someone like Jesus through the forgiveness of her sins. It seems clear that the good news for her at this point in her journey with Jesus is forgiveness. So, when answering her unbelieving friend’s question, “What has Christianity done for you?”, she would likely answer, “Jesus offered me forgiveness for my past sins.” At this point in her life, she would undoubtedly go out and preach a gospel of forgiveness as her good news of Christ.
Similarly, the man born blind who has his sight restored by Jesus would exclaim the good news of healing: “One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).
So, what is the good news of Jesus, of Kingdom living, for you where you are right now? Is it, like the woman, forgiveness? Have you been healed, like the blind man? Is it the new life promised by the resurrection of Jesus? How would you answer your unbelieving friend? What Kingdom-is-at-hand (Matthew 3:2) gospel do you preach by your words and deeds?
Any one of these things is great good news and we must be grateful for any and all of them in our lives and we must be ready to give reasons for our belief that it is from the God of Christianity (1Peter 3:15). However, I believe there is something even more profound that each of these points to, not just good news, but an overarching GOOD NEWS that is needed so desperately in the world yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Keep reading…