Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The good news

by Nathan Brown

While on earth, Jesus sent out His disciples with the instruction that they were to “go and announce . . . that the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 10:7*). This was the good news He wanted them to practice sharing. So when He left them with His final instructions to go and evangelize, to be His witnesses, to share good news (see Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8), it was not a new undertaking but rather an extension of something they had already been learning and doing.

About 2000 years later, we find ourselves as part of the same story and the same mission. Jesus also instructs us to share the good news. But the key to evangelism—and how we do evangelism—is considering what it is that we are to share.

Obviously, the good news is a message. We tell of how God created our world and that, after it went wrong, He has worked—and is still working—through history toward recreating it. We tell of how we were hopeless but that something changed in our lives when we somehow connected with the reality of God, and we now live by different motivations and priorities. We tell of how Jesus came to announce that “the Kingdom of Heaven is near” and how we live in anticipation of that kingdom being made complete when He returns.

But one risk we have is that we hear and say such things so many times that they are almost lost in their taken-for-grantedness. We are tempted to forget how good this good news is and how remarkable it can be for those encountering it with fresh eyes and ears. And we need to challenge ourselves to do the hard work of re-telling, re-imagining and re-explaining this good news in our time and place.

Theologian Walter Brueggemann urges that “a community of hope has texts that always ‘mean’ afresh” (Mandate to Difference). It’s another way of talking about “present truth”—a term dear to the hearts of early Adventists. Living in this tradition, we must not allow our expressions of good news to become tired and give the good news opportunity to always “mean afresh” in our lives, our church and our community.

One of the ways to do this is to realize the good news is also an action. Jesus’ further instructions to His disciples was to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!” (Matthew 10:8). The instructions echoes Jesus’ self-proclaimed mission in Luke 4:18, 19. This good news was to make a real difference in the lives of the poor, the oppressed, the hurting and the hopeless. And, if it doesn’t, can it really be considered good news?

Not only is this a vital component of the good news taught and practiced by Jesus, it is also key to its effectiveness and attractiveness: “The world cannot argue with a church that lives in the pain of society’s poor. The integrity of this form of Christianity silences the harshest of critics, because they know genuine love and compassion when they see it” (Tony Campolo and Gordon Aeschliman, Everybody Wants to Change the World).

As the disciples went from town to town, announcing the kingdom of heaven and healing the sick, helping the poor and giving of themselves, one can imagine that the obvious question they would be asked in each community they visited is why they were doing these things and who had sent them. In answer, they would have enthusiastically told the people about their Teacher and Friend—a man called Jesus—and begun to explain to them the little they understood about Who He was and the difference He had made in their lives.

Ultimately, the good news is a Person. Jesus selected His disciples “to be his regular companions” (Mark 3:14) and that friendship became the foundation of any and all evangelism they were to do. They came to recognize in Jesus a life-changing Godness and a world-embracing love—and they couldn’t stop talking about it (see 1 John 1:1-3).

When we spend time getting to know Jesus, we begin to discover a Friend and a friendship we would be telling others about, even if Jesus had not specifically instructed us to do so. The good news is about Jesus. Indeed, the good news is Jesus. And that’s why it’s worth sharing.


  1. Thanks for posting this; this is something I'm wrestling with right now - haven't got it figured out yet.

    You say:
    "We tell of how Jesus came to announce that “the Kingdom of Heaven is near” and how we live in anticipation of that kingdom being made complete when He returns."

    The 'kingdom of heaven is near' is indeed the good news as far as I can tell...
    You also say that the good news is a person - Jesus.

    This sounds good - and this is where I'm at right now - but how can Jesus be preaching the Good news of the Kingdom (God's reign where his will is done) - and yet be the good news himself?

    Maybe this isn't a problem and I just need it explained better - it just doesn't seem to compute all the way.

  2. Thanks for your comment.

    I would suggest Jesus embodied His message. Not only did he speak it, He acted it and fulfilled it. As "the Word made flesh," Jesus was—and is—the kingdom of heaven drawing near, becoming accessible and available in a new way to humanity.

    And even that seems too glib an answer for the profound mystery that is the incarnation. But perhaps it is a small step in a helpful direction.

  3. Nathan, thanks for reminding me of where my focus should be. It is so easy to get caught up in debates, idealogical positioning and religio-political minutia, that one forgets the Good News.

    Your thoughts are very inspirational to me and, again, I thank you.