The Transformational Gospel of Jesus #1: What did Jesus mean by the ‘good news’?
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. -Matthew 4:23
Towards the end of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King, the hobbit Sam Gamgee awakens as he recovers from his close brush with death. In wonder he hears the voice of a beloved leader who everyone in his company had thought was lost as well. “Gandalf,” he exclaims. “I thought you were dead. But then I thought I was dead. Is everything sad going to become untrue?”
Everything Jesus taught about the gospel encompasses this heartfelt exclamation of Sam. Is everything sad going to become untrue? In the gospel Jesus proclaimed, the answer is “Yes.” It is good news. It is restorative. It is transformational. This is how he framed it. This is how it is. But what exactly does Matthew mean when he spoke of Jesus proclaiming the good news of the kingdom?
I think most of you are biblically literate enough to know that the gospel applies to the aftereffects of the Fall. After God had created man and woman in His image, he put them in a beautiful garden called Eden. They were in a perfect relationship with each other, with all of nature and with God. They lacked for nothing. Their future was secure. Their souls carried no scars from careless wounding by others. They had nothing to be frightened of, no one to rain on their parade. If all had gone according to God’s design, they would’ve lived in harmony with all of their descendants for as long as God determined. Think of it…No wars. No diseases. No crime. No rejection. No hunger. No pointing fingers and accusations. No disappointment. No guilt. No plotting. No backstabbing. No misrepresentation by the twisting of one’s words and deeds. No death to rob them nor aging to sully their bodies.
Their world was quite a different place from the one we live in. And the reason our world became what it has is that at some point they chose rebellion over trusting God. The only limitation He placed on them was to not eat of one tree in the garden whose nametag read ‘The Knowledge of Good and Evil’. In the end they somehow could not resist its fruit. We have reaped all the problems that have multiplied like rabbits since then.
When Jesus finally breaks into history, he does not merely teach about good news. He is the good news. He came to undo the bad news. He came to show us the Father. He also came to show us ourselves. To show us what each of us are to be as a person created in the image of God. He was—and is—in the words of Paul, “the last Adam.” As fully human, he lived out his life in front of humanity as someone untouched by personal sin, yet sent to bear the sins of the whole world on the cross.
I invite you on a journey with me to explore the foundation of the transformational gospel. Paul wrote about transformation because it was embedded in the teachings of Jesus. And, as he noted in 1 Corinthians, no other foundation can be laid than that of Christ. So what is this good news that is Jesus and how does it transform our lives?