Jean’s Gospel: Good News!
During this third week of Advent, let us hear and believe the good news.
“Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.’ ” (Matt 11:2-6)
In Matthew Chapter 3, John’s ministry was described as preparing his people for the coming of the promised Christ: “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.” (Matt 3:11a). Fast forward to Chapter 11 where John, after hearing “about the deeds of the Christ” sent his disciples to Jesus with a question: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matt 11:3) Jesus answered John’s disciples by pointing first to His deeds and then to his words.
Jesus concluded his list of works with: “and the poor have good news preached to them.”
The Good News!
The good news (or Gospel) is the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (see Ch. 61:1-2) which Jesus announced as is His own work:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
The good news includes the proclamation of the year of the Lord’s favor or Jubilee, which has its roots in God’s command to the Israelites. Every fifty years they were to proclaim throughout the land a time of grace, freedom and release, in which slaves were to be freed and debts canceled (see Lev 25:8-15). The Levitical Jubilee prefigured the greater eschatological Jubilee that Jesus brought and proclaimed as the good news of the kingdom of God. Christians are living in the eschatological Jubilee.
This Gospel that Jesus proclaims consists of His promises of divine grace and the forgiveness of sins, leading to freedom from condemnation, renewal of the heart, resurrection of the body, everlasting life, etc. The Father is gracious to us for the sake of His Son, our Christ Jesus, who suffered and died for our sins to redeem us. No law or work belongs to the Gospel, only faith. Whosoever believes His Gospel will receive divine grace and the Holy Spirit.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’ ” (Is 52:7)
What greater work does Christ perform than to bring and publish the good news of salvation? It is a message to be shouted from the tops of mountains. Sin, death, hell, the world, the devil and every evil are scorned when a poor heart receives forgiveness and believes the divine promises of the Gospel. As Paul wrote concerning the office of preaching: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Rom 10:15)
“[H]e has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” (Luke 1:53)
But, Christ preaches good news only to the poor. Although He preaches to everyone and commands that the Gospel be proclaimed to the whole creation (Mark 16:15), it is good news only for the poor: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3) Christ is of no benefit to the rich: “Those who are well have no need of a physician” (Matt 9:12).
Christ and His Gospel encounter two types of people. The first type consists of the rich. This group is rich in works, who think they are basically righteous or well (but, if nothing else, above average). They do not recognize or acknowledge their sinfulness and helplessness before God. The rich respect and prefer the company and methods of earthly rulers. A Messiah who socializes with and preaches to the poor and who loves and forgives His enemies is an offense and a stumbling block to the rich. The Gospel offers nothing to the rich: “they have received their reward.” (Matt 6:2, 5, 16)
The second type of people who encounter Christ and His Gospel consists of the spiritually poor. These are people who have learned or experienced from God’s Law or judgment that they are sinners who justly deserve God’s wrath. The poor realize they are completely incapable of earning God’s favor or justifying themselves before God. Jesus calls them “poor” because they recognize their utter poverty before God. These are the people of whom Jesus spoke: “For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt 9:13) The Gospel is divine grace and mercy only for sinners.
Therefore, let us never become rich in works. If you need to ask: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” – surely you are too rich for the kingdom of God. Christ does not preach good news to patrons. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. Christ alone has accomplished everything necessary for your salvation and bestows it only as an unconditional gift.
On the other hand, if we repent of our works and confess our sins as David did: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” – then surely we are among the poor to whom Christ preaches good news. Let us, therefore, rejoice in our poverty so that in Christ we might be made rich. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9)
“To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Tim 4:18)
“And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33) Amen.