We all had questions and comments about it, and the one that struck me was in verse 15, Jesus says "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near. Repent, and the believe in the good news." (btw, the bolding is mine in all the bible quotes in this post - I think that's the done thing to say it, even though it seems obvious).
Why did I bold those bits? Well, 1.) Note the present tense; and 2.) Jesus was bringing good news.
This might not strike you as odd, after all Christians are always banging on about the good news. But what do we usually say the good news is? Well, it's that Jesus died and rose again for our sins. But the thing that struck me today is that Jesus is already talking about the good news and saying that Kingdom is already here at the start of His ministry.
Think about that. He hadn't actually done any of that stuff yet. He hadn't even really started preaching. He hadn't done any miracles, let alone dying and rising.
So what's the good news?
Obviously, Jesus death and resurrection is a huge part of the good news. But there must be more! Otherwise Jesus couldn't have been preaching it yet. And I think a clue is in this passage from Luke:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus later admitted (rather obliquely, it's true) to being the Messiah of God. The Emmanuel - the God-With-Us.
So perhaps THAT was His good news from the start. The Messiah is here - God is finally right here with you, and I'm instituting my reign among you. The Kingdom of God is at hand.
What does that mean? That's where the Isaiah passage comes in. The Kingdom of God means liberty for those who are oppressed, sight for the blind (or full inclusion into the community, which is really what it's about, I suspect), the favour of the Lord, the releif of the poor. Mary's song upon her conception Jesus fleshes this out more as well - the hungry receive food, the naked are clothed, and wicked despots are deposed.
In other words, the Kingdom of God is here now and it's AWESOME. This is a Kingdom totally opposite to the world's power structures. It's a kingdom of peace, justice, inclusion, love and righteousness.
If this really is the good news, then the death and resurrection of Jesus is kind of the logical extension. Since Jesus, rather than joining with the world's power structures, opposed them, His death is not a huge surprise. In His death, he did two remarkable things (most likely more, but these are what I'm thinking about today):
1.) He defied the world's power structures, hierarchies and social constructs that lead to suffering (i.e. sin); and
2.) He joined with us fully in our humanity by experiencing the fullness of a human life.
When He rose again, He was vindicated as the Messiah, and He also:
1.) Defeated the world's structures and overcame them with his more powerful way of self-sacrifical love; and
2.) Brought us into His divinity so that we might share in the mutually loving relationship between the members of the Godhead (indwelling).
And then He left the church on earth to be His body. That means that God's Kingdom is still here because it's working through His church, via the Holy Spirit. We are God's temple (we also talked about how the temple in Revelation is actually the church, and it's a revelation about the spiritual reality of what is happening right now on earth). Since God's Kingdom is here now, when we preach the good news, we are telling people that God's justice, righteousness, peace, inclusion is available right now. Further more, this is now the new reality.
Terrible structures that keep minority groups down are now vestiges of a past that must crumble. I heard on the radio that 40 percent of disabled people in Australia live in poverty. The systems that cause this and other systemic oppression (like racism or sexism) are not a part of God's Kingdom. Since God's Kingdom is here now, they cannot last forever. The King has come and He will put them to rest.
Dictatorships, murder, war and systemic oppression are an outdated mode of living and governing. God's Kingdom is here now. The King has come, and His way will prevail.
Good News, everyone!