|Jesus announces God's Kingdom|
Now, we as get into the Gospel accounts, Jesus continues spreading this message about God's Kingdom and how close it is. Please remember that, as we learned last time, the gospel we usually hear today doesn't have much about a kingdom in it. In fact one respected site defines it this way: "There is a God, he loves you, and you can know him personally."
Jesus announces this Kingdom in the towns and synagogues of his home district of Galilee, (Matthew chapter 9 verse 35 ERV), eventually moving into the southern Judean synagogues near Jerusalem as well, (Gospel of Luke chapter 4 verse 44 ERV). Later, he sends out his Apostles (Luke chapter 9 verses 1-2 ERV) and then a larger group (Luke chapter 10 verse 1-10 ERV) to spread the same message: "God’s kingdom is now very near you!" (Luke chapter 10 verse 9 ERV).
And one must admit, if the Messiah were to canvas Palestine with an important message, God's Kingdom would be the most logical subject. After all, he's supposed to set it up.
CloserContinuing through the Gospels, we start to see the time until this Kingdom comes shrinking! Now instead of being "very near you," Jesus begins to announce that it is here. Once, after performing an exorcism, he makes this startling claim: "But I use the power of God (literally, "the finger of God") to force out demons. This shows that God’s kingdom has now come to you," (Luke chapter 11 verse 20 and Matthew chapter12 verse 28 ERV). A few chapters later a group of Pharisees ask Jesus when the Kingdom he talks about will come. Instead of giving them a timetable or list of signs to look for, he tells them this:
“God’s kingdom is coming, but not in a way that you can see it. People will not say, ‘Look, God’s kingdom is here!’ or ‘There it is!’ No, God’s kingdom is here with you."
(Luke chapter 17 verse 21 ERV)
In Luke's Gospel Jesus sums it up this way:
Before John the Baptizer came, people were taught the Law of Moses and the writings of the prophets. But since the time of John, the Good News about God’s kingdom is being told.
(Luke chapter 16 verse 16 ERV)
Last DaysDuring his last few days teaching in the Jerusalem temple, his constant theme is God's Kingdom (read Matthew chapters 21 through 24 ). The last time Jesus mentions the gospel before he is executed is to remind his students one more time what to teach: "The Good News I have shared about God’s kingdom will be told throughout the world. It will be spread to every nation. Then the end will come," (Matthew chapter 24 verse 14 ERV).
(Well, not exactly the last time. Being Jesus of Nazareth, friend of babies and fishermen, he made sure that Mary of Bethany's loving and possibly prophetic act would be remembered forever whenever the Great Announcement is made. And it has been, hasn't it. Another prophecy of his come true.)
My main point this time was to show that when Jesus said "gospel" he meant "Kingdom," and that this is rather different from what we mean when we say "gospel" today. In part 3 we'll cross through the Messiah's execution and resurrection to see how that pivot of history affected -- and did not affect -- the message Jesus proclaimed.