Disciples-Teach About Good News ~ 20110130 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
01/30 What did Jesus teach – about the good news that he brought?
We've been looking at Jesus' final command to his followers before he returned to the glory of his Father. He commanded that we all be disciple-making disciples.
We are to be followers of Jesus, and we are to make others into followers of Jesus by immersing into the one name of the triune God and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded. We are taking some time to equip ourselves with what it is that Jesus commanded so that we can effectively obey him in carrying out his final command. We looked at what Jesus taught about God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We looked at what he taught about the Bible, Old and New Testaments. We looked at what he taught about the origin, character, nature, and destiny of humanity. So far, these are big sweeping world-view shaping questions. What is God like? What is the source of truth and authority? Where did we come from, what is our nature, and where are we headed?
We have seen the belief that there is only one God, eternally existent in the three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit comes from the teaching of Jesus. We found that Jesus looked to the Scriptures of the Old Testament as his final authority on issues of faith and life. He himself followed the Scriptures carefully, and he promised that not even the least stroke of a pen would pass away until all was fulfilled. He claimed that his own teaching carried the same authority – he he spoke what he received from his Father. He paved the way for his followers to write the New Testament, promising them the presence of the Holy Spirit as their Teacher who would ensure they remembered everything he had said. We saw Jesus teach that mankind, male and female, are the greatest expression of God's creative genius, made in his very image, given authority over the rest of creation, but because we rebelled against God, we have become evil and corrupt to our very core, and we have earned the holy and righteous wrath of God. Jesus graphically describes what awaits us in the most horrific terms, as worse than non-existence, worse than maiming, worse than drowning, as unquenchable fire, outer darkness, a place where there is incessant weeping and gnashing of teeth, as torment, anguish and unquenchable thirst. And he makes it very clear that there will be no end to the punishment.
So this is the world-view of Jesus. He took the Scriptures to be absolutely true and trustworthy, breathed out by the Spirit of God. He believed in one good and sovereign, just and loving God, who sent his only Son, who was himself God in the flesh, into this world to rescue a humanity that had rebelliously chosen to destroy itself and was running headlong into the pit of a horrific hell.
Jesus holds out to us hopeless and helpless sinners the hope of life, eternal life. This he describes as entering into the joy of our Master, satisfaction of our deepest longings, life and life abundant, intimacy of relationship with him, being in his presence to enjoy his glory. This is good news indeed for hopeless sinful man.
Today I want to look at this good news message of hope for sinners that Jesus preached.
Jesus Preached The Gospel
Jesus saw preaching as primary in his own ministry. At the very beginning of the Gospel of Mark, the first words of Jesus are introduced this way:
Jesus proclaims the gospel of God. The word 'proclaim' or 'preach' (khrussw) means to publish, announce, or herald. This is an official public proclamation. The word 'gospel' (euaggelion) simply means good news, glad tidings, a good message. What Jesus preached is described simply as 'the gospel of God' or 'the good news of God'. This phrase 'of God' could be understood in different ways. It could be descriptive, as in 'a cup of water' – in that case 'God' would describe the contents of the good news message – it is good news about God. Or it could be possessive, as in 'the front door of the building' – in that case, 'God' would be the owner and source of the good news message – it is God's good news. So Jesus comes heralding good news from God or good news about God.
Do you often think of Jesus primarily as a preacher? When we think of Jesus, we often think of a man of action, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, calming the storm, cleansing the temple, engaging the religious hypocrites, delivering the oppressed. But Jesus thought of himself primarily as a messenger with a message to proclaim.
Just a few verses down in this first chapter of Mark, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum when he was interrupted by a man with an unclean spirit. He delivered the man and his reputation spread so that the whole city brought him their sick and those who were oppressed by demons, and he healed and delivered many. The next morning he got up very early and went out alone to pray. When his disciples found him and told him that everyone was looking for him, this is what he said:
Jesus saw his role primarily as a messenger – one who is sent with an official proclamation to declare to all people.
What was the content of Jesus' message? We already saw that it was good news from God or good news about God. Let's look at the words Jesus spoke in Mark 1:15:
There are two main parts to this declaration. Something momentous has happened, and there is an appropriate response that is demanded.
Jesus tells us in two ways that something momentous has happened. He says 'the time is fulfilled' and 'the kingdom of God is at hand'. 'The time is fulfilled' means time is filled up, the time is complete, the fulfillment of the ages has come. The climax of all history is upon us. 'The kingdom of God is at hand' means that God's rule and reign is right here, namely because the coming King has come indeed. Jesus saw himself as both the fulfillment of all prophetic Scriptures and as the coming King, God in the flesh. Jesus heralded the good news about himself, the fulfillment of the promises, God with us, God come near.
The King is here! This demands a response from us. There are two parts of our required response that are described here. 'Repent and believe in the gospel'. Repent (metanoew) is a compound word made up of the words (meta) movement or change and (noew) the mind with its perception, thoughts and purposes. It points to an internal change of mind and heart. Jesus commanded that we:
And Jesus says we think evil in our hearts (Mt.9:4, 15:9; Mk.7:21; Lk.1:51); we speak evil out of the abundance of our hearts (Mt.12:34; 15:18; Lk.6:45); our hearts have grown dull (Mt.13:15); our hearts follow what we treasure (Mt.6:21; Lk.12:34); our hearts become weighed down (Lk.21:34); and are troubled (Jn.14:1, 27); we have hard hearts (Mt.19:8; Mk.3:5; 6:52; 8:17; 10:5; Jn.12:40); we have slow hearts (Lk.24:25); we question in our hearts (Mk.2:8; Lk.5:22); we doubt in our hearts (Mk.11:23; Lk.24:38); we reason in our hearts (Lk.9:47); our hearts are far from him (Mt.15:8; Mk.7:6); but God knows our hearts (Lk.16:15)
Repentance is a call for heart transformation. The other part of our required response is to 'believe the gospel'. Believe (pisteuw) means to have strong conviction, to put your trust or confidence in. It is the verb form of the root (pistiv) faith.
So the good news that Jesus preached was that something momentous has happened, the King himself has come to fulfill all prophetic Scripture. He demands that we respond with heart transformation and place our trust and confidence in the good news that he brings.
We are to 'make disciples of all nations', Jesus said 'teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you' (Mt.28:19-20). What Jesus commands is that we repent and believe in the gospel.
This is filled out when we look at how Luke records our commission to the nations. Luke's account of Jesus' final command to his followers reads like this:
So, where Matthew has 'repent and believe in the gospel', Luke tells us to proclaim 'repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name'. Jesus claimed to have authority to forgive sins:
Jesus connected the source of this forgiveness to his own blood poured out:
So Jesus in Luke points us to the promise in the Scriptures that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead as a basis for the proclamation of the good news of forgiveness of sins in his name. When we put this together we have what Paul summarizes as the gospel he preached:
Something momentous has happened. God came in the flesh. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. A response is demanded from us. Repent and believe the good news. The good news is that forgiveness of sins is found in the name of Jesus.
Gospel in Action: a tax collector
To help us get the implications of this, let's look at repentance and the good news of forgiveness in action in the evangelism of Jesus. We'll start in Luke 5 with the story of a tax collector named Levi. To feel the force of this encounter, we need to understand the social and political backdrop. Israel is under Roman occupation. Rome brought along their many gods, their idolatrous emperor worship, their materialism and immorality. Jewish zealots thought they were doing God a service by stabbing a Roman official in the back. Tax collectors would buy franchises from Rome giving them the right to collect taxes in a certain town or district. Tax collectors were despised as the lowest scum of human refuse imaginable. They were allowed by Rome to charge exorbitant taxes of their own countrymen to line their own pockets. These were traitors, liars and cheats, consumed with greed. They were considered as swine, on the level with murderers. They were viewed as unclean and beyond repentance. They were excluded from the synagogues. Enter Jesus.
Jesus stuns everyone, including his first three disciples, Simon, James and John, local fishermen who had certainly been ripped off repeatedly by this Levi. I wonder if they were excited as Jesus approached the tax booth, thinking he would surely overturn this tax collector's tables. Jesus, the great teacher, walks right up to the tax booth and says to this filthy human swine who is beyond hope of repentance 'follow me'. Let's imagine what is going on in the heart of this man. He was aware of the amazing things going on in the area. Jesus was healing the sick and the lame and freeing men from demonic oppression. Jesus said:
I am a captive. I am a slave to my greed. I am riddled with guilt. I am despised. I am the worst of the worst. There is no hope for me. But this teacher Jesus is bringing hope to many we viewed as beyond hope. I wonder... could it be...? Imagine the guilty conscience when this man's eyes met the penetrating gaze of the Master. And then he spoke. Two simple words. 'Follow me.' That was all it took. He abandoned everything and went after Jesus. He threw a feast and invited the only people who were willing to associate with him. Other tax collectors and sinners.
The religious elite were disgusted that this great teacher would associate with such scum. Jesus answer is powerful. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Levi was a sinner. Everyone knew it. He knew it. The religious leaders were sinners too, but they refused to admit it. In their self-righteousness, it was impossible for them to repent.
Jesus did not come for the righteous. Later, Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector to confront the self-righteous.
The difference lie in what they trusted in. Jesus said they 'trusted in themselves that they were righteous'. The so-called prayer of the Pharisee is filled with the first person pronoun. I, I, I, I, I. The tax collector, in his distance, in his posture, in his desperation, and in his words, demonstrated that he was genuinely broken and repentant. He has nothing to trust in but throws himself on the mercy of God. In humble helpless dependence, he cries out 'God be merciful to me, the sinner'. It is to him Jesus says 'Yes!'
Receive Like a Child
The next thing Luke records is this:
Jesus uses this opportunity to illustrate what is required for entry of his kingdom. He says we must receive the kingdom like a child. It must be received. It cannot be earned. Receive like a child – in simple trust, helpless dependence, shameless asking, eager delight.
What good must I do?
One more ilustration. Luke continues.
When Jesus called Levi at the tax booth, he didn't demand that he leave everything. That's what Levi (or Matthew) was already eager to do. When this eager seeker comes and wants to know what he can do to get eternal life, Jesus points him to the character of God and to the commandments. God alone is good. You are not. But this man was righteous in his own opinion. “All these I have kept from my youth.” So Jesus confronts the treasure of his life and extends the invitation. Let go of what you are trusting in and follow me. He came asking for eternal life, and Jesus turned him away because he came with his hands full. He was unwilling to empty them, acknowledge his sinfulness and need, and receive like a child.
Jesus, with sadness, tells us that it is impossible for someone with their hands full to repent and believe the gospel. His followers ask with incredulity “Then who can be saved?” They are right. It is impossible. We all have our hands full. But Jesus points us to the true source. “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Salvation comes from the Lord. Only God can birth new life in the heart of a Levi so that he sees following Jesus as greater worth than the piles of money he is wallowing in. Only God can birth in the heart of a Pharisee like Nicodemus that his righteous deeds are like filthy rags in the sight of God and that he needs to repent of his righteous deeds and turn and look to the Son of Man lifted up on a cross, bearing sin and purchasing forgiveness, to put his trust in him and receive like a child the gift of eternal life. “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”