Monday, February 1, 2016

The Good News of the Kingdom of God

31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha! [2] What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” 37 And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.
38 And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon's house. Now Simon's mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. 39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them.
 40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.
42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, 43 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.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea. (Luke 4:31-44 (ESV)
“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”
The good news of the kingdom of God, this was the central message of Jesus Christ. It is what he preached in Nazareth, in Capernaum, and in the towns of Judea, which in this context most certainly means Galilee. But what was this good news of the kingdom of God? The content of his preaching is known from the recordings of his parables, The Prodigal Son, The Wise and Foolish Virgins, His Sermon on the Mount. Here we have a short summary in Luke of the content of Christ’s preaching in Capernaum, and what he would go to preach in the villages of Judea. He would preach the good news of the Kingdom of God. For Jesus Christ, this was more important than anything else.
I have to say, like the inhabitants of Capernaum, we do not always share this sentiment with Jesus Christ. At first the people of Capernaum were amazed at the authority with which Christ preached. Authority he confirmed by healing the sick and casting out demons. His preaching captured their attention because he didn’t preach like the rabbis that qualified their assertions and appealed to ancient authorities, or teachers from the generation of their fathers who led in the Maccabean revolt. They would teach the traditions of men rather than speak the clear word of scripture. And through it all they would burden the consciences of the people. There was no gospel in what they preached, no good news. And that was the real difference. Jesus proclaimed good news, he spoke of the kingdom of God that was upon them. Instead of tying heavy burdens upon the people with the law, he would walk, heal and pick grain to eat on the Sabbath. And to show that he had the authority to forgive sins he would tell the man to get up and walk, he would cast out the demons, he would even cure Peter’s mother in law from her fever. But with that, the fascination with his preaching, the forgiveness of sins, the good news of the kingdom, the fascination with all that dried up. Now there were more pressing problems to deal with.
We are like that, we think the problem that we are dealing with now is the most important. Everything else can wait. So we live crises to crises with little to no long term planning, very rarely searching to see what is at the bottom of our problems the root source of our afflictions and what might be done about them. We are, as it were, more concerned with the symptoms than with the disease. We would rather suppress the symptoms than have concern for a cure. Perhaps we just take the gospel for granted. What we really want is God to fix our spouse, make them more loving or attentive toward us. What we really want is perhaps to hear how we should vote in the upcoming election so that we can fix all the other problems we perceive in our lives with taxes, medical care, abortion and homosexual marriage, or a host of other problems we think are more important than the sin raging within our bones marching us to the grave, and if it has its way to the lake of fire created for the devil and his angels.
This is what Jesus came to take care of, a problem bigger than anything we can imagine, a problem that could not be solved with any law. For if there was a law by which man could be justified Jesus would not have had to die. So he came to preach the good news of the kingdom of God.
Good news, it is what the word gospel means. Good news, this is news that causes for great joy in a person’s life. The kind of news that opens champagne and makes a man dance in the street. It’s your boss telling you he has given you a %10 raise and is sending you on vacation for a job well done. It’s an election night that goes your way. It’s the news that Osama Bin Laden died of acute lead poisoning and justice was served. And when you fully comprehend the entirety of Christ’s message this is the result. Because the good news of the kingdom of God is that you had a death sentence on your head. If justice was to be served you would spend all eternity in hell in more anguish and pain than this world can even give you a foretaste of.
I mean, I think about that, people living in this world with all its pain and suffering, the torture of cancer, the pain of chemo. I think about all the emotional hell he put ourselves and those we love through because of our selfish conceit. The stress we add to our lives with credit card debt. The burdens we lay upon ourselves to be successful in this or that endeavor when so much of it is out of our control. And then I think of those who die, can you imagine living through this pain only to die and find more? That was our death sentence, that is what we had waiting for us. And then Jesus came. Then Jesus died. Then Jesus rose from the dead! And then Jesus who comes again to judge the living and the dead looked upon you and poured water on your head saying your sins are forgiven. Then Jesus invited you to the feast of forgiveness saying take eat this is my body, take drink this cup is the new testament in my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. And now the problems of this world don’t seem so bad. We get to leave them behind for an eternity in the presence of God to bask in the glory of his love.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. 

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