Do you know what the word “Gospel” means? The word gospel is derived from the Anglo-Saxon term god-spell, meaning “good story,” a rendering of the Latin evangelium and the Greek euangelion, meaning “good news” or “good telling.” So one could easily say that when we see or hear of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, they speak of the “Good News” according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Most of us recognize the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the name of the accounts that were written from the post-Resurrection perspective of Jesus, that contain an extensive and common Passion narrative that tell us about the earthly ministry of Jesus, from their hindsight.
I picked the “Gospel of Mark” in this post to speak of a message that it contains. And what is that message? The message is that it’s not enough just to be aware of the Gospel of Mark or even to have read it. The message is that you have to take it to heart and live it.
But there is more to the message. When you read about an account that someone has left us from away back in history, that we are able to read and understand what it is that they are telling us about, we can then, learn from it and then basically leave it at that. But these “Gospels” are not normal stories or accounts. These “good news” accounts are all talking about one individual, Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the “Anointed One” that is spoken about in the Old Testament of the Hebrew Scriptures.
And each of these “Gospels”, in their own individual way, tell the same story or give the same account, of who Jesus is and what He did and the message that He gave to them, and through them, the message that they give account of, is passed along to all of us.
But it is more than a message and it’s more than a story. In actuality, it is a declaration or a proclamation of a testimony, if you will. What each of them tell us, from their own individual perspectives, is about Jesus. And the Jesus, whom they each tell us of, is different from the norm. What He says is different, what He does is different and what He Himself proclaims is different. And what we are discussing here is actual history. Jesus actually lived, He was actually crucified on a cross and He actually rose again from the dead after having been dead for three days. There was no doubt that Jesus was dead. The whole objective of Roman crucification was to bring about death and it was brutal. If the Roman authorities deemed you were to be crucified, then you died and you were no longer among the living. It was over for you.
But the “Good News” of the Gospels are not just about what happened to Jesus. The “Good News” is also an account of reconciliation. The reconciliation of mankind and God, initiated by God and accomplished by God Himself, that was made possible through the death of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, on the cross, for you and for me. And the proof of that reconciliation and all of what transpired, is declared and authenticated (proven) in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Where the original disciples (the Apostles) and other disciples aware of what they were communicating to us through their Gospels? Oh yes they were, they thoroughly understood the ramifications of the message that they were proclaiming. The Apostle Paul states their acknowledged situation as follows:
1 Corinthians 15:1-19 NASB
“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
Did you get that last line? Paul states “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” There is no doubt that the writers of the Gospels were acutely aware of what they were communicating to us. None whatsoever. They knew exactly what they were saying. They knew the consequences of what the situation was, if their testimony was not true. They all knew, yet they all continued to proclaim the same “Good News”. And they all, with the exception of the Apostle John, ended up having their lives taken from them (individually killed), because of their testimony about who Jesus was and is and what He accomplished.
These “Gospels” that I speak of, including the Gospel of Mark, all give in essence, the same account, with variations as per their individual preference of presentation. You could see these “Gospels” advertised on a bill board. You could see a booklet sitting on a table. You could open it and you could read it but nothing will actually happen if that is all that you do.
The history and truth of Christianity isn’t hidden under a rock. But nothing, nothing, happens to you personally, until you begin to live it, until you personally step into it. And how do you do that? There are three basic prerequisites:
a. you must believe that God is;
b. you must believe that Jesus is who He says He is and has accomplished on your behalf what He says He has accomplished (paid the price that a just and Holy God demands for our sins or transgressions); and
c. you must believe that Jesus rose from the dead.
Yes, I know, I’m not always keen about “musts” either but these “musts” are NOT optional.
If you truly believe these basics, your life has to change. You cannot truly believe them and remain the same. These “truths” are not like knowing that water freezes when it hits a certain temperature, a fact you acknowledge and can then go about your normal day to day living. These “truths” must of necessity affect your day to day living. If these “truths” are held to be true, they will in fact affect all that we do.
These are the basics. More follows like baptism and the confession of faith that that entails, studying God’s Word etc. Key word here is “basics”.
I use the analogy of learning to swim in a swimming pool. You can examine the pool, you can examine the water, you can stick you foot in it and check it out from all sides but sooner or later, if you want to be able to learn to swim in that pool of water, you are going to need to jump into that water and believe that you can learn to swim. Your feet do have to leave the bottom of that pool. Learning to ride a bike is another one. Sooner or later the training wheels are detached and both of your feet have to leave the ground. You experience the reality by doing it.
There are many untruths in this world but the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are not among them. They have all withstood critical scrutiny from the day they were written until this very day. But you gain nothing from their message unless you live them for yourself. Saying you believe in God or in Jesus and striving to live in step with His commandments through the indwelling guidance and strength of God’s Holy Spirit are not one and the same thing. Lip service is lip service and if we can recognize lip service in ourselves for what it is, you can pretty well be assured that God does too.
The truth is that it is the truth that the Gospels contain that is what is usually rejected. God is holy and sovereign, that implies accountability and we don’t like the reality of accountability as it pertains to us. It’s not rocket science but the reality of living in a relationship with Jesus daily, is live changing. How we interact with God, with others and how we view ourselves. When you stop to think about it, how could it be any other way?
Revelation 3:20 NASB
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
We’re not talking about quick restaurant food here, this is fine dining, sharing a meal, intimate family relationship enhancement, where time is of lessor consequence.
That is what Jesus promises and this is what He gives.
Closing Note: This whole post came from a dream I had last night about seeing the Gospel of Mark advertised on a bill board and the message it contained. Didn’t have a clue how it would turn into a post. God is good!
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!