“The Good News of God”
Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62: 5-12; Mark 1: 14-20
Pearl: the allure and goodness of Jesus’ message of the reign of God.
Function: To move worshippers to act upon the inspiration of the message of the kingdom of God which our Lord Jesus promoted.
Jesus had a cause, a good and excellent cause—the kingdom of God on earth. Picking up directly from John the Baptizer he put it succinctly:
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15).
- At the beginning of his movement, Jesus gathered a band of followers who would join him and help him to establish his cause. First calling Peter, Andrew, James and John, these men were not the kind of people easily led astray. These men were among the hard-working class of people who are the backbone of any society. They were the average, common people. These were the first ones who Jesus asked to join him.
- Jesus walked into their lives and our scriptures indicate that he invited them to drop everything and follow after him. Unbelievably, they did just that. There is no diminishing their radical reaction and response to his invitation.
- What was it about Jesus invitation that influenced these men to drop everything and follow him? There really was something compelling about Jesus’ was message, a radical message of Good News.
- You could not write Jesus off as some flake. He made sense. He might have sounded a bit ambitious, but he made sense to the masses. He made sense to these first four.
- Jesus was forging what Celtic spirituality describes as a “thin place” where the distance between heaven and earth narrows and the presence of God is more readily felt.
- Jesus made this his life mission: to close the distance between heaven and earth.
- When heaven gets closer, things change as a result!
- During a church bible study in Florida, a lifelong member told a story from his boyhood. Growing up just north of downtown Miami, William was a teenager who rode the bus downtown to church with his brother to attend Thursday’s children’s choir rehearsal. He soon began to notice others who rode with him. When he hopped on the bus to return to the northern suburbs female domestic workers and male day laborers would begin to fill the bus. He noticed that many of these women and men had to stand during the entire ride because they were people of color and were restricted to the back of the bus, where all of the seats were quickly taken.
- Troubled by the situation, William decided to do something. Although he was white and could sit at the front, he decided to go to the back of the bus and take one of the seats in the section reserved for people of color. When there were no more seats in that section, William would stand and give his seat to the next woman of color who got on the bus.
- Many years later this man became a leader in nurturing a racially and economically diverse congregation.
- He paid attention in Sunday school when he heard stories like the one in Mark in which Jesus called the disciples. “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Where did they go? To places like the rear of the bus.
- Jesus spoke of a different order to transform the existing order. His message was one which sounded different than anything before. Something in his words and in his way was full of promise. Something in his words and way was full of sense. Something in his words and way was very much needed.
The Good News of God shines brightly and brilliantly, hopefully and intentionally. What is this Good News of the reign of God which Jesus brought to bear?
- God’s Good News brings freedom from bondage—sin, evil, corruption, enmity.
- God’s Good News is a way where many win—not just a few.
- The Good News is a way in which small and simple acts of goodness make a very big difference.
- The Good News is full of examples of how those who are unnoticed are noticed by God; recall the woman who had the many year hemorrhage and was during Jesus’ day was avoided by all.
- The Good News is a way in which the poor are constantly thought of and provided for.
- God’s Good News is a way in which people who never have any privilege gain a taste of that which the privileged always know.
- The Good News is a way the most effective means for getting things done is through prayer and service.
- God’s Good News is a way in which a very little goes a very long way. I think of the time in which Jesus fed the crowd of 5,000 people. The lunch came from a small child. Perhaps the real demonstration of the reign of God was in the way in which the simple act of one small child sharing what he had and with Jesus’ blessing was able to feed 5,000.
The beauty of the message of Jesus and the power of the message of God’s Good News is in how it can come and will come through you and me.
It was not going to come through the huge monolith of the Roman Empire. Nor will it come from the post-modern empire of the United States of America.
- Even today, the answer for change in the world, the sign of hope in the world, is when average people, you and me, are moved to act by the inspiration of the Good News of God. When you are inspired to do something for the poor and when you are inspired to do something to share the message that freedom can come from addiction and bondage through the power of Jesus Christ and when you are inspired to do one little thing because of the nearness of God’s presence, THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS! HEAVEN MAKES AN IMPACT ON EARTH!
- When Christ’s followers tune in to the music of the kingdom of God in small numbers and even individually, and having tuned in, begin to move to the music, live by the music, the light shines and God is glorified!
The reign of God makes a difference. God’s kingdom is continually making a difference in the world today. The world is changing even today due to the glacial movement of the kingdom of God. You don’t see it moving but unquestionably it is making progress; as glaciers carve out mountain ranges, the kingdom of God is making a difference.
- The way of God’s Good News is that it constantly comes down to you and me following the call of Christ. Jonah did not want to follow the call of God to go to Nineveh. He went the other way. He went the opposite direction. And he got into a whale of a predicament!
- But of course, when Jonah lived, heaven and earth were not as close as what Christ made it! Peter, James, John, and Andrew did not hesitate. They could sense the dynamic impact of God’s reign on this man Jesus.
- It constantly comes down to followers of Christ and any people of faith working together according to the ways of the kingdom of God (largely spelled out in the “Sermon on the Mount” in chapters 5-7 of Matthew’s gospel).
The way of Christ and God’s kingdom is not the way of the world. It is a world where a child’s gesture impacts 5,000 people. It is a world where someone who was written off is salvaged (the Gerasene demoniac and the woman with the multi-year hemorrhage). It is a world where there is great rejoicing and celebration when that which was lost is found. It is a world where a teenager is moved to right a wrong, to fix a broken piece of the world.
- That young man who saved a seat in the back of the bus became a pastor who merged two congregations with vastly different identities in the inner city of Miami. The new congregation became multiracial and known for its ministries with the homeless. It remained in the city when other churches left.
- Unlike Jonah this young man felt the nearness of God and responded immediately to Christ who says, “Follow me and I will make your life worthwhile and meaningful.”
- Can you feel the nearness of God’s Good News as well? Will you represent the Good News of God? Jesus calls you to follow him and his Way.