(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
And Now The Good News!
17th March 2012
Matthew summarises the majority of Jesus's ministry on earth in just a few verses:
Jesus preached the GOOD NEWS of the kingdom of heaven, and He healed the sick, and a huge revival broke out! People came to Him from all over that part of the world.
The GOOD NEWS of the kingdom of heaven is firstly that, as Jesus said in verse 17, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near". (The NIV says "the kingdom of heaven is near", which sounds like it's almost arrived, but a better reading is "the kingdom of heaven has come near", meaning that it's already arrived near you and me). It's a present reality on earth! And we can take hold of it.
It’s GOOD NEWS that the kingdom of God has come. It’s wonderful that Jesus Christ, the King of Creation, has come and now rules on earth:
And the kingdom of heaven offers us a new way to think. In Jesus, God showed us what He’s really like, and through Jesus, God taught us the most profound truths about people, and about God, about right and wrong, about good and bad, about eternal life, and about forgiveness. Another way to understand "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near" is “Jesus is going to give you a new way to think about God and about the universe, about others and about yourself”. That’s GOOD NEWS!
Instead of making do with our own way of thinking, or our parents’ way of thinking, or the BBC’s way of thinking, or the Guardian’s way of thinking, we can adopt God’s way of thinking. If two people disagree, and if one of those two people is God, then it’s the other one who’s wrong. We don’t have to be wrong any more. We don’t have to misunderstand any more. In Jesus, and in the Bible, God reveals so much of what he thinks and what His priorities are, and we can align our thinking with His, and become wise. That’s GOOD NEWS!
And Jesus didn’t only preach about the kingdom of heaven, He gave it away, free, to all who would receive it. He healed “every disease and sickness among the people”. That doesn’t mean that everyone in Galilee was healed, but it does mean that Jesus could heal any disease that anyone had and, if someone asked Jesus to heal him, he did.
The very expression “kingdom of heaven” tells us that this is something supernatural. Christianity is fundamentally supernatural. So we shouldn’t be surprised that it includes supernatural healing and other miracles.
The coming of the kingdom of heaven means that God wants to be more involved in your life, in your thinking, in your emotions, in your relationships, in your well-being, than you’ve ever realised before! That's GOOD NEWS. I can still remember what it was like the first time I realised that God loved me. It was a wonderful revelation of the rule of God – which is a rule of love, peace and goodness, and it changed my life. God is real, and God loves you, and God wants to intervene to heal your body, soul and spirit.
What do people really want? The truth, and forgiveness, and healing of our bodies, our hearts and our spirits. That’s what Jesus offered, and that’s what the church is called to offer. Jesus preached the GOOD NEWS of the kingdom of heaven, and he offered healing to whoever came to Him. The church is called to do the same. We’re called not just to preach, but to heal. Not just miraculously but also by offering people love in the name of Jesus. The church should be a place of healing, a place of rest for the weary, and love for the lonely, and forgiveness for the sinner.
And we - his followers - are called to preach GOOD NEWS, not bad news. Too often the church has been perceived as criticising, rather than loving, excluding rather than including, condemning rather than forgiving, speaking at length on what man is doing wrong, rather than what God is offering to fix the situation. And we have contributed to this perception.
We’re not called to keep telling people how sinful they are and how badly they’re letting God down, but to proclaim how much God wants to include them, and love them, and help them. Of course, we must speak out to warn our neighbours about the nature and consequences of sin, but that was a small part of Jesus’s message and it should be a small part of our message. If we preach GOOD NEWS like Jesus did, and if we serve our neighbours by praying for their healing, and by helping them practically to live the best life they can, then maybe we can get our reputation back as being people of love and peace and joy. And maybe we, too, will see revival, as Jesus did.
And Britain desperately needs revival.
In Matthew 11:19 we read that Jesus was called the friend of sinners. Christians – His followers – should also be the friends of sinners, not their judges. After all, we’re sinners, too.