“Excuse me sir, do you have a minute to talk about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Hey. Don’t run from the Lord! Where you going?”*
This is the soundtrack of the hilarious, viral Tik Tok, originally made by Josh Ritter, that shows a deer being chased across a field. It has been re-imagined thousands of times across social media sites as people upload their videos of people or pets running away from the urgent exclamation of evangelism.
At the risk of killing the humor by explaining it, the clip is so funny because most Americans have wanted to run away from a persistent evangelist at some point in their life! Hearing the words, “Do you have a minute to talk about the Lord?” brings many feelings, the least of which is delight. In today’s world, hearing about Jesus is not good news.
The gospel of Mark was written to people who sympathized with these modern sentiments. Jesus, the subject of this Tik Tok’s ridicule, was also ridiculed and scorned by the Greek and Roman world of the 1st century. To them, Jesus was an enigma. A divine being executed as a criminal? That was ridiculous. For those who believed Jesus, they still wondered about this contradiction. And for those who did not believe, why should they even listen? How can Jesus be good news?
Mark believed that Jesus was good news, and he organized his book to convince believers and unbelievers. He begins his book by summarizing Jesus with two titles. Jesus is good news because he is the Messiah, God’s Son. Let’s look at why that should make us glad.
Mark 1:1 – The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God…
Jesus is good news.
“Good news” is the Greek word evangelion, and it is often translated as “gospel.” It is where we get the word evangelist, who is a person bringing good news.
The only way to communicate news in the ancient world was through word of mouth. There were no computers, phones, nor postal service. If you needed to tell someone a message, you could pay a scribe to write it down and pay a messenger to take the message to the right person, or you could have the messenger memorize the words to speak them directly. Then, once the person received the message, they would tip the messenger. This bonus gift was called the evangelion first in early Greek. It was the reward given to the messenger when the hearer was happy with the news! For instance, Homer calls the reward for bearing good tidings the evangelion a number of times in The Odyssey. But Homer wrote centuries before Mark.
The word evangelion shifted in meaning slightly by the time Mark writes of the evangelion of Jesus Christ. Instead of the reward, the evangelion is the glad proclamation itself! The idea of a glad proclamation is not novel. It was how the prophet Isaiah referred to a coming time when God would be in charge of the world. I want you to take a minute and imagine a good world. What is missing from that world? What do people feel like? What would you be free to do? What could never happen? Does that sound like good news?
This is the vision that the prophet Isaiah gives us. Isaiah 61 says that he foresaw that a world ruled by God would be a time of plenty, the poor are fed. It would be a time of health, diseases are healed. Captives are freed. There is true justice for those who deserve it. There is comfort for the broken. Beauty for the ugly. Homes are restored. People love people, no matter who. There is joy and celebration. God assures us that the world will not always be the place we have experienced: a world filled with want, disease, captivity, corruption, death, ugliness, mourning and despair. God promised to send someone who would turn the depravity of humanity upside down.
Mark claimed that Jesus was the one who instigated God’s new world. Whether you believe Mark about Jesus’ identity or not, a good world sounds like good news.
Jesus is the Christ.
The prophecy of Isaiah is why Mark calls Jesus – the Christ. Christ is Greek for Messiah, which is the Hebrew title for the anointed one of God. Messiah literally means “the one who had oil poured over him.” Isaiah 61:1 says that the anointed one will proclaim the evangelion – the good news that God’s good kingdom is here. A kingdom marked by hope, goodness, justice, and celebration.
The ancient act of anointing proclaimed kings, ordained priests and heralded the Spirit’s work in the Old Testament. It transferred authority from God himself. The one who anointed and the ritual itself were recorded and lauded as defining moments. Jesus had oil poured on him by women who recognized his identity as Messiah. Jesus said that their anointing of him would always be remembered.
As a Jewish man, Jesus was linked to centuries of prophetic tradition that pointed humanity beyond what can be seen and heard to something else. Someone else. The Hebrew Scriptures reveal that a powerful Being created the cosmos and that this God remains devoted to his creation. Throughout history, God has reached out to people to reveal himself and to give hope through his promise that he has a good plan for us.
In Mark 1:15, Jesus declares, “The Time is here! God’s kingdom is near.” God has not forgotten his promises. He is close by. Jesus as Christ is good news because it reveals that God is working to turn our depraved world upside down. He promised to send an anointed one who would turn the poor into the plenteous, the sick into the picture of health, to free the captives, to turn sadness into dancing, and death into real life. Jesus said that the time had come. God is near, and his goodness is at work in the world.
Jesus is the Son of God.
Jesus is not the first, nor the last, to be called God’s Son. It is also a title, like Christ. The Roman Emperor, Octavian, called himself the Divine Son to link his authority to Julius Caesar, who was deified after his death by the Roman Senate. As the Divine Son, Octavian held the same power as his adopted father, Julius. The title passed down to succeeding emperors: Tiberius, Nero and Domitian. It signified the divine right to rule.
Mark was writing to an audience who held the Roman coins in their purses that proclaimed the Emperor the Son of God. His readers lived under Roman rule. Even though Rome brought significant improvements to society and culture, the empire of Rome could not be described as “good news.” Instead, Mark declares that Jesus is the Son of God in direct defiance to the Roman Emperor. The Roman Emperor was not good news, but God’s Son is.
Jesus is the rightful heir to sit on God’s throne. He does not rule like the dictators of Rome. He does not enforce his reign upon us. He invites us to let him work from the inside out, because God’s kingdom is inside of us. It transforms the world through people who value what the good God values. Jesus rules as God’s Son not through a force of power, but through loving sacrifice.
Jesus is still relevant.
Mark writes that the story he is about to tell is only the beginning. It is not over. The good news of Jesus continues. It is still bringing gladness today. It is full of reward. Mark will go on to tell us the story of Jesus miracles. Jesus literally fed the hungry, healed the sick, brought the booze to the party, released those in captivity to evil and had the power to overcome death itself. Mark’s story gives us a glimpse of how good a world ruled by God can be.
Unlike the man who insisted the deer stop and listen while he shared about his “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Jesus does not chase you down and force you to listen. He waits and asks to come into your life and transform it with good things like affection, appreciation, kindness, loyalty, pleasure, thoughtfulness, self-restraint, generosity, and contentment. This good news is not easy to believe, but when we begin to live with the hope that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the gospel becomes the best news you’ve ever heard.
*Watch the original video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxVHwEM4IDA
One thought on “Is Jesus Good News?”
A lifting read. My heart went to a good place. I once heard it said, “There’s no bad news in the good news.” Remembering that can help the wise one (who still knows there’s a cost to following Christ) to embrace the purity of the gospel message, and throw away the religious spins on it. Blessings on your study!