Gospel as Peace: Part One

This post begins a short three or four part series on the Gospel as a source of peace in our world. 

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”[1]

To call oneself Christian implies a certain loyalty to the eponymous rabbi whence the title derives. His question still lingers in the ears of any would-be follower, “Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46 NRS). He expected those who heard him, to take his words seriously.
Luke describes Jesus preaching the kingdom of God:[2] “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God . . . I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43 NRS).[3] The kingdom of God is the overarching theme of Jesus’ action and teaching.[4] This begs the question, if Jesus’ purpose was preaching the kingdom of God, what was he proclaiming? When posing the question “what is the gospel?” to modern Christians, I generally get an answer pertaining to Jesus’ death burial and resurrection. But according to the Synoptics, it was not until the last third of his ministry that Jesus revealed he was going to die. And when he did, he was met with opposition: “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”[5] It’s not the response one would expect if the disciples had already been preaching that Jesus was going to die for the sins of the world and be resurrected. And indeed, the disciples had been preaching the gospel of the kingdom prior to Jesus revealing his death and resurrection, “he [Jesus] sent them [disciples] out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:2 NRS).[6] If Jesus’ death and resurrection were the central components of the gospel of the kingdom of God message, why didn’t they know?
John the Baptist had a similar message, “the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matt 3:2 NRS). The interesting thing about John is that when in prison, he sent word to Jesus by his disciples asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (Matt 11:3 NRS, cf. Luke 7:19). This “coming one,”[7] according to some sources, was expected to be a liberator: giving sight to the blind, making the lame walk, cleansing lepers and causing the deaf to hear.[8] These were all actions that met chaos with shalom in the name of the Lord. Surely, if the death of Jesus was being preached as the “gospel of the kingdom,”[9]  John would have known. After all, it is he who baptized Jesus and had been preaching a similar message. But we get no such message from anyone.

[1] J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, revised ed. (The Random House Publishing Group, 1982), 290.
[2] Matthew 19:23 offers a parallelism showing kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God to be synonymous terms. Matthew is the only gospel writer to use kingdom of Heaven, meaning, the God of Heaven establishing a Kingdom. Heaven was a word that was used by the Jews as a replacement of God’s name. There is no sense of “going to heaven” in the use of kingdom of Heaven.  
[3] Other elements of his mission could be “sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 10:6; 15:24); “calling sinners to repentance,” (Luke 5:32); “save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10); “destroy the works of the Devil” (1 John 3:8).
[4] Richard Bauckham, The Bible and Ecology : Rediscovering the Community of Creation (Waco, TX.: Baylor University Press, 2010), 164.
[5] Matt 16:23 cf. Mar 8:32; 9:31 “they did not understand”; Luke 18:34.
[6] Luke 9:8; 60; 10:9. 9:22 is the first mention of Jesus predicting his suffering in Luke.
[7] I. Howard Marshall, The New International Greek Testament Commentary : The Gospel of Luke : A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978), 287-90.
[8] Isa 35:5-6; 61:1-2. Jesus leaves out “freedom to prisoners” in his response to John, almost as if to say, “sorry John, you are not going to be released from prison.” He even adds, “blessed is anyone [John?] who takes no offense.”
[9] Matt 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Luke 16:16; Mark seems to reduce to just “gospel.” (Bauckham 2010, 164).
Click here for part two.

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