Elijah, a student and blogger at Fuller, asked me weeks ago what biblical basis I had for my understanding of “mission.” I’ve been answering ever since. Hope you’re not past the due date on this assignment, Elijah.
If you’re just tuning in, you can catch up on this series of answers by going here.
And now, Jesus…
What Is “Good News”?
It’s “euangelion” in Greek. “Evanglium” in Latin. And in our English bibles it’s “gospel” or “Good News.”
It’s a political word. An “euangelion” was a royal proclamation. When a war was won, an enemy overthrown, a royal heir was born – an “euangelion” was sent out from the king to his subjects. Here’s an often-cited example:
The providence which has ordered the whole of our life, showing zeal and concern, has ordained the most perfect consummation for human life by…filling him with virtue for doing the work of a benefactor among men, and by sending him, as it were, a savior for us and those who come after us, to make war to cease, to create peace everywhere/ The birthday of the god was the beginning for the world of the gospel that has come to me through him.*
This text was the proclamation of the birth of Caesar Augustus. This is the type of “euangelion” royalty sent out to the people.
Jesus’ Good News
In Mark 1, Jesus was baptized, John the Baptist was imprisoned, and “from that time on” Jesus began to proclaim the Good News – “euangelion.”
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news (euangelion) of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” – Mark 1:14, 15 (NIV)
A few more translations:
Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” – Mark 1:14, 15 (NAS)
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” – Mark 1:14, 15 (ESV)
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” – Mark 1:14, 15 (RSV)
Jesus’ Good News was that something called “the kingdom of God” was present, “at hand”. This Good News was recorded not only once in Mark but eleven times that I can count. And not just in Mark but in three of the four gospels.
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven** is at hand.” – Matthew 4:17 (ESV)
…but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” – Luke 4:43 (ESV)
John did not use the term “euangelion” a single time. But he too recorded Jesus speaking of himself as King (John 18:36) and preaching about “the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Jesus was sent to earth to proclaim the Good News that the kingdom of God had arrived (Luke 4:43). This signaled to all that Jesus believed himself to be a king: Only kings or messengers of the king proclaimed a royal “euangelion.”
Next, we’ll look at what “the kingdom” was and how it was proclaimed and fulfilled God’s mission and centuries of prophecy. Understanding this will put the “good” back in the “Good News.”
*William L. Lane, “The Gospel According To Mark,” in The New International Commentary On The New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), pg. 42
**Matthew was writing to a pious Jewish audience that would have been offended if he used God’s name. So, Matthew substituted “heaven” for it instead.