The word gospel simply means good news.
The first four books of the Bible’s New Testament are the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each Gospel gives an account of the life of Jesus Christ. The Bible, the sacred text for Christians, is a collection of texts that includes the law, history, prophecy, and wisdom literature of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) and accounts of Jesus’s life and the formation of the church along with letters to churches (the New Testament). The Bible reveals God’s relationship to humanity through history. Many Christians believe that these sacred texts are “God-breathed,” or inspired in a way that makes it God’s divine self-revelation to humanity (2 Timothy 3:16)
Why is Jesus considered “good news”?
Jesus lived in the area known today as Israel, about 2000 years ago.
The accounts of Jesus present Him as good news in many ways.
In Luke, the birth of Jesus was announced by an angel appearing in the night sky surrounded by shining light. This light was described as “the glory of the Lord.” (Luke 2:9). Night-duty shepherds were terrified by this. Seeing their dread, this angel told them not to be afraid, because the angel had good news. “Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 NIV)
The ancient Israelites had been anticipating a Messiah, a divinely anointed king from the royal family of David. This messianic king would rescue the Jewish people from oppression and usher in a new era of blessing. The Israelites had been conquered and then oppressed by one nation after another. Through this, they waited for God to rescue and restore Israel as their prophets had promised. (See, e.g., Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7, 40:9, 61:1; Daniel 9:24).
Jesus ushered in a wave of belief that He was the prophesied Messiah. The appearance, at Jesus’ birth, of an angel accompanied by the shining of the “Glory of the Lord” and then an entire “army” of angels singing praises about Jesus is interpreted by most Christians as confirmation by God that Jesus is this anticipated Messiah. (Luke 2:8-14)
The miraculous “signs” seen in the life of Jesus and recorded in the New Testament demonstrate His supernatural nature and the details of His birth, life, ministry, and death are interpreted as fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament prophets.
Mark’s Gospel (Mark 1:1–11) records that a man called John the Baptist was a popular preacher who drew great crowds and baptized people in the Jordan River. He proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Additionally, he proclaimed that someone greater than he was coming who would baptize people with God’s Holy Spirit. After John baptized Jesus, the sky opened and the Spirit of God descended on Jesus like a dove.
Jesus taught that “the Kingdom of God is at hand,” and called people to “repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:12-15) Throughout His public life, Jesus performed miracles. These miracles typically provided healing or nourishment, even raising some from the dead. Additionally, he performed miracles that showed his authority over nature such as calming storms.
These “signs” pointed to but were not the gospel.
What is the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus?
The good news of the Gospel is wrapped up in Jesus’ death and resurrection. (Mark 15 & 16; Luke 23:44-24:53; John 19:28-21:25).
Christians believe that Jesus was not just a man. He is God. He was Emmanuel, which means God with us. His birth, announced as good news to shepherds by the appearance of an angel, fulfilled Old Testament prophecies from hundreds of years earlier.
Mary, the woman who bore this child despite never having had sexual relations with a man, had also been visited by an angel. The angel told her not to be afraid because she had found favor with God and was chosen to conceive and bear a son. This son, Jesus, was the Son of God, a king who would live forever. (The Gospel of Luke 1:1-38)
Why is good news needed?
Christians believe that there is a personal God who is perfectly good. He also wishes for humans to be good. Christians also traditionally believe that he will judge and punish those who do not live up to His standard of perfect goodness.
Part of God’s image that sets the human species apart from other animals is our consciousness—our mental capacity to express ideas, create works of art and engineering, etc., and a conscience—a sense of right and wrong. Many call this the Imago Dei, the image of God in humanity.
While we may not all agree on the same standards, it is safe to say that none can honestly claim perfection even of their own standard of goodness.
Most Christians believe that the Bible shows how this first happened. God placed a man and a woman (Adam and Eve) in a garden with only one rule. Do not eat the fruit of one particular tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. As a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, they gained awareness of right and wrong and were exiled from the Garden.
While many Christians view this episode from scripture as literal, others view it as an allegory. Either way, the Biblical point is that no human is perfectly good. That failure at perfect goodness is called sin.
Whether the Biblical story of Adam and Eve is literal or allegorical, sin separated humanity from full communion with God. Humanity was removed from the Garden.
Why is sin such a big deal?
Many Christian traditions interpret the Bible as revealing a personal God who created humans in his image, set standards for right and wrong has the power and authority to judge, and whose perfect justice requires that any infraction be subject to the death penalty.
But the Bible also teaches that God is perfect love. God perfectly loves humanity, the children he created.
Christianity sees sin as separating humanity from a perfect relationship with God. The most prominent perspective in Christianity is that it also separates humanity from God for all eternity- a perfectly just God cannot be associated with the unjust.
The biblical narrative shows God reaching out to humanity through a series of covenants, agreements, with biblical figures such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses.
The covenant with Moses, called the Mosaic Covenant, established a religious sacrificial system for the Israelites to reconcile with God. This system required the blood sacrifice of animals as was common in the Ancient Near East.
So, what was so special about Jesus’ death?
Christian theology is that, as fully God and fully man, Jesus lived a perfect life. He perfectly fulfilled the Mosaic Law and was perfect, without any sin. Despite his perfection, he was crucified, killed on a cross, by the Roman Empire.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is Good News because Jesus shed His blood on the cross. He he was a perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sin of all humankind. As a result, He provided salvation from the penalties of sin for all.
This was an act of love on Jesus’ part reconciling God as both just and loving. Jesus knew the suffering He would endure and willingly gave his life so that humanity could be reconciled to God.
It took more than the Cross
Jesus taught that the greatest love one could have was to lay down their life for a friend. (John 15:13) But it is possible for anyone to make such a great sacrifice for those they love, or even those they do not know.
What gives Jesus’ death power is not just that he laid His life down but the Christian belief that He was resurrected. The Good News is not simply Jesus’ torturous death but His divine victory over that death. This is the central event of Christianity and the event celebrated on Easter.
Through His resurrection, He demonstrated for all humanity his power over sin, His ability to reconcile an imperfect humanity with a perfect God. The resurrection of Jesus was the culmination of God’s love and His commitment to the potential of eternal life for all. (John 3:16)
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