A good question: What is the Gospel?
One question, four answers
‘The Gospel is a source of hope’
Two disciples left Jerusalem for the trek to Emmaus, upset, downhearted and confused. Unbelievably, Jesus had been crucified; even more unbelievable was that women were saying he had risen. A stranger joined them on the road and spoke with them regarding the events. His words and explanations lifted their hearts. And when the stranger, Jesus, broke bread with them, they recognised that the risen Christ was always in their midst. They headed back immediately along the road to Jerusalem spreading the good news. This is the Gospel. The Gospel is a source of sustenance, a source of hope and salvation.
On the road, Jesus reminded the disciples of people’s separation from God and their futile attempts to reconnect. He spoke of the prophecies regarding God’s Messiah as the source of people’s reconnection with God and said that Jesus had fulfilled all the prophecies, suffered on the cross and ‘gave his life as a ransom for many’. This was done for us as a gift of God’s grace. This is the Gospel.
Before his crucifixion, when Jesus spoke of the good news, he spoke of the realm of God that would turn everything on its head. It is a realm of justice, peace, love, care, where the poor receive good news, captives are set free, eyes are opened and God’s favour is available to all peoples. After Jesus’ rising, the resurrection not only became part of the good news, it was also evidence of the good news. This is the Gospel…
Mark Robinson is Group Minister for the United Reformed Church South West Hants Group of Churches
‘The Gospel is to be lived’
In the Roman empire, ‘gospel’ (euangelion in Greek) was ‘good news’ carried by a messenger about the Emperor. The euangelion could announce a new Emperor, wondrous deeds of the existing Emperor, or the expansion of the empire. For the empire, that’s euangelion! But for early followers of Jesus, the true euangelion was a different kingdom, the reign of God, with Jesus the Messiah on the throne. For Christians to use this word, ‘Gospel’, was and is to subvert empire propaganda.
What is the Gospel we share as followers of Jesus? Is it personal good news? Is euangelion the news of Christ’s victory over sin and death that you can run and share with others? Is the Gospel ‘good news’ for me and you? Is it communal? Is the Gospel announcing that God’s kin-dom building project is under way with Jesus as the project manager? Is euangelion news of God’s victory over forces that seek to destroy communities and work against God’s ways? Can this ‘good news’ be just as relevant today for an alcoholic who has lost everything and everyone, as it was for a Samaritan woman shamed out of community life in around 30CE?
Do we enter into the Gospel like a contract, accepting our sinful nature and accepting the one who paid the cost for our sins? Does our salvation rely on our ‘faith in’ Jesus or the ‘faithfulness of’ Jesus?
Jesus in his faithfulness willingly took the euangelion baton from his dad, carried it to the empire’s cross, then into hell, snatched the keys off Satan, then carried the euangelion baton along with the keys back to his disciples, saying: ‘Mates, tell them the good news. Tell all of them. Nowt separates us now from the love of God. I’ve defeated the cross, and I’ve got the keys. Let’s get working on my dad’s community.’ (Please forgive my slightly dodgy scriptural mashup.) …
Angela Rigby is Minister of Christ Church, Tonbridge, and St John’s Hill United Reformed Church, Sevenoaks
‘The Gospel is Jesus’ impact’
Mark’s Gospel begins: ‘The beginning of the good news/Gospel of Jesus Christ, son of God’. This is either an entirely unnecessary note in the script, since we can tell that it is the beginning of the Gospel without needing to be informed of it, or a very helpful insight into the definition of ‘Gospel’. Mark 1:1 indicates that all that follows is the Gospel: the story of Jesus’ life and ministry; his calling of the disciples and his teaching; his healings and encounters with people along the way; his death and resurrection. All of these can be gathered together under the heading of ‘gospel’.
But that is not all. The implication of the statement that Mark 1:1 is the ‘beginning’ is that the Gospel lives on beyond Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, beyond the end of the text of Mark. Indeed, the oddly truncated ending only serves to emphasise this. If the beginning of Mark’s Gospel is strangely definite, the ending is no ending at all. It peters out, leaving us with little more than the sound of the women’s footsteps echoing in the stillness as they ran away in terror, and the thought that the real end of the Gospel is to be found, not written down, but in the lives of those who listen to Jesus’ call to ‘come follow me’.
If this is true, then Mark’s Gospel points us to at least two strands in the definition of ‘gospel’: the reality of who Jesus was (which we find in Mark’s Gospel written down) and the impact of this reality in the lives of his followers. In this way, the Gospel is both descriptive and transformative – it tells us who Jesus is and calls us to live differently as a result…
‘Salvation comes through faith in love and truth’
More than 19 centuries ago, people heard the opening words of Mark’s Gospel for the first time: ‘The beginning of the euangelion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’. These are shocking words. The Roman Emperor was ‘son of god’, but Mark snatches away his title and gives it to an executed troublemaker from an obscure corner of the empire.
Euangelion – which we translate as ‘gospel’ – referred to a proclamation of military victory. Yet, this is not the victory of an empire or army, for Jesus refused to use weapons – even when he was arrested. Jesus’ victory comes in a way that the empire cannot understand – through death and resurrection.
The Gospel that Mark wrote was a threat to the Roman empire. The Gospel remains a threat to the powers of the world.
This is the Gospel: that salvation comes not through violence, riches or power, but through faith in love and truth, as manifested in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This Gospel is political. It cannot be anything else. If Jesus saves, money and might do not. If Jesus is God, the Emperor is not. …
Symon Hill is author of The Upside-Down Bible: What Jesus really said about money, sex and violence (DLT, 2015). He works for the Peace Pledge Union and the Workers’ Educational Association
These are extracts from an article that was published in the October 2019 edition of Reform