Mark’s gospel begins with the words ‘The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet‘ (Mark 1:1-2). The New Testament scholar and former bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, has just released a book called ‘Simply Good News’ in which he explains what Jesus and his later followers understood as Good News by examining scripture, the historical context of the original message, and by linking the Good News back to the covenant God made with the Jews.
It’s not enough for us, he argues, to bombard people with good advice (however worthy the advice may be); what is more important is that we tell them the good news of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, how this affects what is happening now in the lives of those who believe and what God will do for us in the future. Jesus coming was ‘a step toward the restoration and transformation of all creation by a God capable of doing it for the creation he loves and the humanity he made.’ (Russell E. Saltzman, in a review of the book). Wright writes, ‘The good news is primarily that God – the generous God, the loving God – is being honoured, will be honoured, has been utterly and supremely honoured, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.’ (‘Simply Good News’, P 166)
In everything we do and say, we need to remember that God’s actions in history – past and present, giving us the assurance that He will do in the future that which He has promised – are the basis of our hope. 1 Pet 3:15 says ‘But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’ We have good news to share, for we have hope. We have a reason for the hope we have: God’s love and faithfulness. Our focus on advice, our tendency to exhortation, our passion for improving society, must always be secondary to our proclamation of ‘the good news about Jesus’, for only God’s actions have the power t0 change. As Wright wrote in a Christianity Today article, ‘The gospel is the royal announcement that the crucified and risen Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again according to the Scriptures, has been enthroned as the true Lord of the world. When this gospel is preached, God calls people to salvation, out of sheer grace, leading them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord.’