“Good News”

Over the past several months I’ve been thinking and reading a good deal about the word “gospel.”  In evangelical Christianity we use the term a good deal. Often – in fact almost exclusively – the term is used with reference to the “Roman Road” and how a person gets saved.  That may certainly be a part of what gospel means but it seems it is only a part. [1]

Resisting the path of wordsmithing, when looking at the first four Gospels, suffice it to say “gospel” as a noun and “gospeling” as a verb are used almost exclusively in the synoptics. It appears that John does not use the word in either form. That’s interesting but not necessarily critical because John’s focus on Jesus is different from the three main Synoptic Gospels. The word used for gospel is often translated as “good news” which indeed the gospel is. But good news about what or about whom?  Jesus seems to indicate that it is good news about the kingdom of God. Furthermore it is good news about the kingdom of God because the kingdom of God is “at hand.”  Of course there is more to it than that, a good deal more, but for now that’s sufficient because my desire here is to look at something that compels us to determine a definition of the word “gospel” that is very different from the Roman road concept.

In Matthew 26, in the preparation narrative, we are told of a woman who came and anointed Jesus with a very costly perfume. An act that made the disciples rather indignant because they saw it as a waste but Jesus saw it as a fitting preparation for his impending crucifixion and burial and as a result responded with these words: “Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”   What exactly did Jesus mean when he said “this gospel” because it clearly means something other than the way the term is most often used in contemporary language?  And secondly, it is seldom – if ever – that one hears about this story and what the woman had done in conjunction with the gospel. Why is that?  The act by the woman is not just something that people would speak about when recalling her life’s story, although that may be true. And the gospel that Jesus is talking about is clearly something more than just how one gets saved. So what is Jesus talking about?

It seems that perhaps the good news here – the gospel –  is the story, the full story of Jesus as the Messiah, his bringing the message of the kingdom of God to all men and his perfect life and sacrifice which fulfills the requirement that we could never fulfill!  When looking at human history Adam failed in his intended relationship to God, God’s “son” Israel failed in their intended relationship to the Father and we fail in our intended relationship to God. Regardless of who tried to strike the chords of harmony when it came to the God – man relationship all failed miserably. It was only Jesus, God’s only begotten, the great I AM, the Messiah and Lord that was able not only to sing the song but to sing its final verse – to demonstrate what it means to fulfill the intended relationship of mankind to God.

Like the woman with the costly perfume and her recognition of the Savior, our recognition of  this gospel might be our personal way of anointing Jesus with the costly “perfume” of our individual surrender and commitment to him as King, Lord, and Savior!

Just a thought.

[1] “The King Jesus Gospel” by Scot McKnight and NT Wright’s new book “How God Became King – The Forgotten Story of The Gospels” are very good resources for looking anew at the term “gospel” and the message of the Gospels.

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