At the end of the book of Mark we hear the words of Christ to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15 ESV). Before we can go and do, we need to stop and ask - what did Jesus have in mind when he gave this commission?
We have all heard the word “gospel” and we might even think we know what it means. It simply means “good news”. What is the good news? It depends on the story you have been told and conditioned by.
For most people the Gospel is synonymous with going to heaven after you die. It is dependent on the finished work of Christ on the cross. While this is certainly true, it is not the whole concept. It became the dominant way to think about the gospel since the days of Augustine who drew on his personal conversion story as the legal pronouncement made by God toward those who place their faith and trust in Jesus.
Let’s back up a moment. There is more to it. From the Gospel of Mark alone we can expand our understanding.
First, the Gospel is a proclamation of the story of Christ. In the very first verse of Mark we read “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ”. Long before anything is said about the death of Christ, Mark concentrates on the life of Christ. The gospel is the entire story of Jesus that Mark narrates throughout his Gospel. More specifically, the “gospel” according to Mark is “primarily a narrative of the dawning of God’s kingdom in and through Jesus Christ.” It is a proclamation . We know Mark has this in mind because he quotes Isaiah 40:3 in verse 2 “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare the way a voice calling in the desert”.
Second, the Gospel is a perspective of God’s work in the world. The gospel is not just an afterlife issue. In verse 14 of chapter 1 of Mark the author quotes Jesus when he says “the time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is at hand. The kingdom is God’s alternate arrangement of ordering the world. There is a better way to live long before we die.
Third, the Gospel is a parable. It is the mysterious way God works in the world. In Mark 4:26-34 we see the kingdom of God is like a treasure buried in a field. It is like a mustard seed. It is here but it is hidden, immanent yet transcendent. It is at hand but not yet.
Finally, we come to the close of the book of Mark and we see that the Gospel is participatory. The Gospel is a story that is unleashed through people. You are are part of the gospel story and so am I. We are invited into the gospel project even as was the initial disciples (Mark 16:19-20). God is busy making all things new. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus has opened that work to everyone who wants in on it.
So what is the Gospel?
I like the way Brian McLaren summarizes it:
“ The kingdom of God – God’s reconciling community, God’s new way of living, God’s dream for creation, God’s mission in this world, God’s healing of all creation, God’s will being done on earth as in heaven, Creation 2.0 At hand – within reach, available to everyone, truly here and at work, present, inviting our participation, calling us to rethink everything and reorient our lives
This is the good news Jesus proclaimed both before (Mark 1:14) and after (Acts 1:3) the resurrection. It’s also the good news Paul proclaimed (Acts 28:23, 31). It’s the one I hope more and more of us rediscover, embody, celebrate, and proclaim as well.”
Larry A. Pozza