TEXT: Matthew 9:35-38; Romans 1:15-17; Isaiah 52:7
Do you need some good news? It’s been a hard year (or more!). I know I could use some good news. Did you know that the Christian faith and the scriptures we read are, at the heart, good news? And I’m not just calling it that. It’s a specific word in the scripture and it shows up in a number of places. This summer we’ve been looking at key words, important words in the Bible. Today we look at the word that literally means “good news.” Sometimes you’ll hear it as ‘gospel,’ which is just an older English version of good news. The first four books of the New Testament are called “the gospels.” The news about Jesus and salvation is called “the gospel.” And Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God as ‘gospel.’ That’s a lot of good news!
The specific Greek word we’ll be looking at is in two forms. There is a noun (euangelion) which occurs 75+ times in the New Testament and means “good news.” And there is a verb (euangelizo), which occurs 50+ times in the New Testament, and means “preach/tell the good news.” The terms are found throughout the Old Testament as well, as seen by the use of those words in the early Greek translation of the Old Testament. The word may sound unfamiliar, but if you see it I think it might look more familiar because the ‘u’ looks like a ‘v’ and if you see that you’ll see the derivative words ‘evangelism,’ ‘evangelist,’ and ‘evangelize.’ The word also breaks down into two parts: eu (good) and angelion (message). That’s a good reminder that ‘angel’ means messenger. It’s all connected!
That’s enough linguistics for now. What I want to do is look with you at a narrow and wide definition of “good news” and then I want to talk about why it’s good by sharing some personal testimony.
THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT JESUS
The first thing you may think about when you hear “the gospel” is Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. And that is the gospel, good news for sure! It is at the heart of the Christian faith and experience and the New Testament writers refer to it as “the gospel” a number of times. Consider three examples:
1 Corinthians 1:17-18 – the gospel (good news)… [is] the word of the cross… the power of God to us who are being saved
Ephesians 1:13 – the message of truth is the good news of your salvation
Romans 1:16 – the gospel (good news)… is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes
The cross is good news! It is good news that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, that we are forgiven of those sins and made right before God. That’s why that even is called Good Friday! But there is more good news about Jesus than that event. Consider our major Christian celebrations of Christmas and Easter. Jesus being born was good news! In fact, the message of the angel to the shepherds announcing Jesus’ birth was “Behold, I bring you GOOD NEWS of great joy which will be for all the people… Christ is born!” (Luke 2:10-11) This was the Word made flesh, living as one of us and walking with us while still also being fully God. And consider Easter: that’s good news! Yes, Jesus accomplished our salvation on the cross, but sin and death did not hold him down. God raised him from the dead and us with him. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 Paul writes of “the gospel which I preached… which you received… in which you stand… and by which you are saved… that Christ died for our sins, was buried, was raised, and appeared. All of that is good news; all of that is “the gospel!”
THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT GOD
The gospel is also the good news about God. God wasn’t lying around dormant until Jesus was born. Rather, God revealed himself to a person and a people in Abraham and Israel. God made covenant promises to Abraham and his descendants. God established an earthly kingdom and king and laws as a foretaste of a heavenly and eternal kingdom and king. In that heavenly kingdom and to keep the covenant promises, God would bless ALL the peoples of the world. And so you read in Old Testament and New good news declarations about God’s Kingdom, God’s reign, God’s glory and plan for the nations, and God’s salvation and peace for all the world, especially for those who are suffering or experiencing injustice. God will set all things right and reign over the world. Consider a few examples:
Psalm 96:2 – Proclaim good news of God’s salvation from day to day… tell of His glory among the nations…
Isaiah 52:7 – This is good news: God’s peace (shalom), God’s happiness (tov), God’s salvation (yeshua), God’s reign as King
Isaiah 61:1 – This is the scripture Jesus later reads in the synagogue, from the scroll of Isaiah. The Spirit of God has anointed Isaiah, then Jesus, to bring GOOD NEWS to the afflicted/poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners… to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord (that is when God will reign as King). Luke 4 records Jesus reading this and then saying “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (v.21)
So that, too, is part of the good news gospel. The significant part of Jesus teaching ministry was announcing the arrival of the Kingdom of God and the reign of God. With that came the blessing, peace, and justice of God breaking in to our lives, and Jesus invited people (as he does us) to “follow me” and participate in that Kingdom and Kingdom blessing of those around us. In fact, Matthew describes Jesus as “going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the GOOD NEWS gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.” (9:35) He did this, Matthew said, because he saw the distress of the people and he felt compassion for them.
In fact, if you read back through some of the good news gospel verses that talk about the cross you will see the theme of God blessing the nations through Jesus. The angel who declared “good news of great joy” said it would be “for all the people.” (Luke 2:10-11) That’s the nations; that’s the world! The Gentiles are “fellow heirs and members of the body, fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the GOOD NEWS gospel.” (Ephesians 3:6) In Acts the followers of Jesus were “preaching good news of Jesus as the Christ” – that is, the Messiah, the anointed one of God who would usher in the Kingdom of God. (5:42) Even calling Jesus “Jesus Christ” is to point to the GOOD NEWS about God’s covenant promise and eternal kingdom.
This whole Bible is a GOOD NEWS story from cover to cover. It is both the good news about Jesus and the good news about God. And it is good news for you and for me!
WHY IT IS GOOD TO ME
I began by asking if you need some good news. In my life I have experienced disappointment, sickness, loss, and profound discouragement. In recent years I think we all have faced turmoil around politics, relationships, race and justice, the pandemic and its impact on us, and more. We certainly need some good news and I want to share five reasons this story is good news to me. There is more, but for today I’ll keep my list to five. You may have your own reasons to add!
In the New Testament I read…
Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sin. This is good news because through Christ my sins are forgiven. I have a clean slate and God’s mercies are new every morning. I am reconciled to God through Jesus.
And not only did Jesus die for me, but he was born, lived, died, was raised, and is seated at the right hand of God. This is good news because God came all the way down to where I live and breathe. Through Christ God sees me, knows me, wants me, reaches out to me, makes a way for me, forgives me, adopts me, and welcomes me home. God is WITH me and FOR me through Jesus Christ! And through Jesus God invites me to be a part of what He is doing in the world even now.
In the Old Testament (and repeated in the New Testament) I read…
God created humanity in God’s image. This is good news because it speaks of the inherent (created) dignity and worth of all people, of men and women and of people of all races and languages. Humanity bears the image of God. This has profound implications for how we see and treat one another as well as for how we see ourselves.
God covenanted (promised) to bless the world. This is good news because God has come after me though I turned away. God has and is seeking me out in love. And the covenant blessing is for the whole world, for people of all races, tribes, and languages, who will be redeemed and gathered in the presence of God forever. This also has profound implications for how we see and treat one another as well as for our place in the world.
God’s Kingdom will be forever and Jesus will reign as King. This is good news because all will be set right and I am invited to participate in that kingdom citizenship even now in terms of how I live in the world and even, eventually, how I die. In life and in death I belong to God through Jesus Christ!
This is good news about Jesus, about God, and it is good news for me and for you! I challenge you to sit awhile with God’s story today and this week. Where in your life do you need to hear good news? And how is God’s story and the story of Jesus Christ good news for you?
May God help us to hear and understand and believe and follow. Amen!
Some Music Used
- How Beautiful (Twila Paris)
- In Christ Alone (Gettys/Townend)
- Great Are You, Lord (All Sons and Daughters)
- To God be the Glory
- Gospel Song
- God So Loved the World
- Salvation’s Song