The word Gospel means “good news”. The first four books of the New Testament of the Bible, the four gospels written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are their testaments to why Jesus Christ is “good news”. They wrote these books during the first 40 years after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, during a time when Christians were often sought out, persecuted for being followers of Jesus Christ and often put to death when they refused to deny their faith in Christ. Despite these dangers and hardships the number of Christ’s followers grew rapidly during those years. What was this good news that so attracted new followers to Christ that not even the threat of death could frighten them away?
For Israelites who accepted Christ, the good news about Jesus begin with events related to Jesus’ birth, family and early life that they recognized as fulﬁlling age old prophecies about the Messiah they awaited. They caused them to give Jesus a serious look. Jesus’ conception in the womb of his mother, the Virgin Mary, through the overshadowing of God’s Holy Spirit, clearly indicated Jesus’ special favor before the one God that Israel had worshipped from the time of Abraham. Mary, Jesus’ mother, and his foster-father Joseph, were also of the house of king David, David’s descendants, and it was in Bethlehem, the city of David’s descendants that Jesus was born. All these things were in accord with age old prophecies. Through the prophet Nathan, God said: “Now, therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader over My people Israel…when your days are fulﬁlled that you must go to be with your fathers, I will set up one of your descendants after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build for Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father and he shall be My son; and I will not take My loving kindness away from him, as I took it from him who was before you. But I will settle him in My house and in My kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.’” (Chro. 17:7-8,11-14) .It was also written: “…for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘…and you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ” (Matt. 2:5-6) Jesus, Mary and Joseph were also seen to be exemplary in living out their Israelite faith in every way.
But it was not only these aspects of Jesus’ life that were good news. Jesus’ teaching was also in accord with messianic prophecies. He taught, “the kingdom of God is at hand”, “turn away from sin”, “Blessed are the poor…those who mourn…the gentle…those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…the merciful…the pure in heart…the peacemakers, those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness…those insulted and persecuted and falsely accused because of Him. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:3-12) The more Jesus spoke publicly the more people ﬂocked to hear him. “He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd…There were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” (Matt. 14:13-14, 21)
Not only were Jesus’ life and teachings good news, his actions were good news as well. He befriended sinners and encouraged them to turn away from sin. “Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacriﬁce,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt. 9:10-13) Jesus had compassion on those who were abandoned and outcast from society. “And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” (Matt 8:2-3)
Jesus healed the sick and the lame and expelled demons that all who came to him in faith might be whole in every way. Even Jesus’ excruciatingly painful passion and death became understandable as good news when Jesus rose from the dead. He had been all powerful through it all but he freely offered himself as a sacriﬁce, accepting even death on a cross, as the means to redeem us from the suffering our sins deserve. Through his resurrection, eternal life was now offered to all who would accept and follow him.
The final good news found in the four gospels is that the work of salvation that Jesus began personally continues daily in the Church he established on the Apostles. The church continues to forgive sinners and call sinners back to union with the whole church community. “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” (In. 20: 21-21) The Church continues to heal through the sacrament of the sick. “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.” (James 5:14-15)
The Church continues to make Jesus physically present and approachable in the celebration of the mass and the reception of the Holy Eucharist. “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My ﬂesh.” (Jn 6:48-51)
And Jesus also made it clear that this good news was not just for the Israelites but for the whole world. “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’ ” (Lk 24:45-
Jesus always greeted his disciples and taught them to greet others, saying, “Peace be with you.” (Jn. 20:19) He told them two commandments to follow to obtain this peace. “…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mk 12:29-31) John, the disciple Jesus was said to love, wrote: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins….By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (Jn 4:7—l2;14-16)
This is the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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