I would like to have heard Jesus preach. How do you think His message would be received today? He had no building, no public address system and I sure can’t picture him using notes. Stranger yet, his gospel did not directly contain himself as one who had been crucified or raised from the dead. What were listeners supposed to do with Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom which did not mention himself as one who must be invited into the heart? What was the good news Jesus was preaching? At least we know what those privileged to hear Him thought.
They were amazed … for He was teaching them as one having authority. (Mark 1:22)
Everyone there was incredulous, buzzing with curiosity, What’s going on here? A new teaching that does what it says? He shuts up defiling, demonic spirits and sends them packing! (Mark 1:27 MSG)
The saying and the doing were perfectly aligned in Christ’s life and he had the upper hand over demonic powers and illness. Had they enjoyed print media, the headlines of the Galilean Times would have read; “THE WORD HAS BECOME FLESH; Demons Silenced and Evicted in Jesus’ Presence”. The sense of amazement was not just a response to his excellent sermons; it was a response to the powerful manifestations of God’s life as it was being displayed before them.
We have great communicators and communication technology today that are assisting in the gains being made in preaching what we have come to understand as the gospel. I have wondered though; is the gospel as we understand it the same gospel Jesus preached? If the earth today were exposed to Jesus’ version of good news would we be as dependent on media? The results-oriented gospel that Jesus preached was doing pretty well without public relations. When Jesus ministered…
Immediately the news about Him went out everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee. (Mark 1:28)
Scripture tells us Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying,
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel. (Mark 1:15)
We may not know the exact content of all his messages but we do know, because of His deeds, the kingdom of God was at hand. It was accessible and in it, there was a now-authority over the powers of darkness. I believe this is an element of the good news we have somehow lost. Without the now-ness of the kingdom, we are left with only a then-ness. How much of the fruit of our indifference can be traced to this root? What a powerful demonic strategy; get the called-ones to adopt a then–is-the-day-of-salvation attitude.
I too have read the Bible with a that was then – this is now mindset. While I may confess with my lips a fuller, more powerful gospel, I often live complacently as if the kingdom will be then – at hand with a then – authority rather than living responsively toward the kingdom as a now – reality. So today, as I hear Jesus say, “Repent and believe in the good news“, I believe he is telling me to repent of my blasé attitudes about His now – kingdom and His now – authority and my fatalistic projections of where I perceive the trends of an evil society are taking us. Yes, the trends do seem obvious; hopelessness is in the air we breath but, scripturally speaking, where there is evil is not grace to abound all the more?
Did Jesus say it was better that the Holy Spirit come and indwell us just so he could collectively affirm (by the absence of power) a dispensation of Christianity focused on buildings, programs, or on our knowledge of the Bible, or limited to the refinement of our character? Is the Holy Spirit contentedly residing quietly inside us, as we halfheartedly (or whole-heartedly) embrace a Christianity that is lean (or completely barren) of kingdom authority and reality?
I can only explain the relative impotency of my Christianity (and that of my generation in the west) by considering that the demonic spirits have not yet been silenced nor have they been sent packing. They are still present. In the west they may not be flinging their writhing victims into fires but they have set our culture on fire by weaving their lies into our narrative, encouraging unbelief within and without the church. If we will look at our world through the lens of God’s kingdom, we will see there is much writhing within the collective soul of society. It will be a sad shock one day when we discover that in our accommodation to these lies we had effectively flung ourselves into the fire.
Father, may the renewing of our minds include an upgrade in our perception of Your kingdom government which we know will continue to increase until You place all your enemies beneath Your feet as a footstool. Please impart to us a righteous indignation where the kingdom of darkness is outshining the kingdom of light. Amen.