What is the Gospel? (Part 1)

In Scot McKnight’s excellent book, “King Jesus Gospel” he asks a question that is so simple but so profound – Did Jesus preach the gospel? This is an intriguing question because we typically think of the gospel as the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus that gives us future hope in heaven through our promised resurrection. But during Jesus’ ministry these things were not on the table in such a nice, neat package. That either means Jesus didn’t preach the gospel, as we define it, or the Gospel isn’t defined as we define it (it is bigger and inclusive of more things than the above summary).

The temptation is to say he didn’t teach “the” Gospel (as summarized above) as we understand it today rather Jesus just preached “Gospel” (lacking the definite article). So what is THE Gospel and did Jesus preach it?

The Bible itself tells us that Jesus taught the Gospel. I will dive into the Greek in a future post but for now let’s look at a thumbnail of what we have.

Matt 4:23 & 9:35 – “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and every disease and sickness among the people.”

Mark 1:1 – “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.”

Mark 1:14-15 – “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!'”

Clearly, Jesus preached the gospel (good news). He did so without preaching it as we are accustomed to hearing it and he did that because his Gospel included more things than what we often include in our understanding of gospel. What were the components of Jesus’ gospel in these verses (we will cover more later)?

  • It had something to do with healing
  • It had something to do with Jesus being Messiah
  • It had something to do with Jesus being the Son of God
  • It had something to do with the kingdom of God.
  • It had something to do with repentance

Before I go any further, I want to establish the idea that Jesus did preach the Gospel and that anything Jesus includes in the Gospel should be included in our understanding of the Gospel. That means Jesus’ circle of what is included as Gospel was both wider than ours (included things we don’t include) and, ironically, more narrow than ours (including some very specific items we often overlook or leave out). This means we include things as Gospel that aren’t and that we miss things as Gospel that are.

What are some things that we include as gospel that aren’t? Wright and McKnight both talk about our obsession with individual salvation –  dying and going to heaven as the great gospel hope. That is close but doesn’t quite give the same emphasis as the biblical gospel. What are some things the New Testament (Jesus) includes as Gospel that we don’t? We often miss his being Messiah and how important that is in continuity with the Old Testament and we also miss the fact that when Jesus taught about the kingdom (often in parables) that he was preaching Gospel. So take the contents of the parables and put them in the circle of what is included in the Gospel. We also don’t associate healing with Gospel but Jesus did. I want to talk more about that in the next article.

What are your thoughts on this? What implications does this have on our message and ministry?

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  1. It sort of amazes me – what is new with the idea of the difference in the content of the “good news”message Jesus proclaimed?
    It is obvious that the content of His message is different than the “church’s” message, and yet, the same.
    Both are inclduding “kingdom news.” Jesus spoke of a “kingdom to come,” Paul (and others) spoke of a Kingdom which had arrived. Strange, however, in both ways, since it was the message of an “eternal kingdom…” But that is for a different time.

    As far as “It had something to do with healing” is concerned, I would prefer to say that the healing had something to do with the Kingdom. The signs, miracles and wonders existed to support, affirm, confirm that the message was indeed one from God.

    • Once you reject gnosticism and platonic dualism and get re-interested in the fact that God made a physical world that He said was good and even very good then the healings start making more sense. It is restorative…a hint at what is to come as Paul also hints at (well maybe a lot more direct than a hint) in Romans 8 that the creation too will experience liberation from bondage to decay as will our mortal bodies. Then the healing ministry makes more senses – God is not happy with death, decay or illness. It is a result of the sin/curse but will all be redeemed. It is more than just our sins getting forgiven and spiritual reality – it is about our whole being.

      • So, apart from all the theological speak, allow me to explain.

        John tells us the reason he records the miracles – so that we may believe that Jesus is… “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

        And, “Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know…”

        And correct, God is not happy about with death, decay, and illness. But it was not His doing these came into the world.

        And yes, it IS indeed about our whole being. Not sure if the implication I get from your response, but the presence/absence of miracles is neither here nor there. I think…

        • You are right on track when you make the point that the miracles help people toward faith. They verify Jesus’ authority to do powerful things while at the same time Jesus talked about who he was. He cannot both use the power of God to do miracles and be telling lies about his identity. So the miracles confirm that his teaching is true and his teaching points us toward his identity as Messiah/Christ.

          I think that is part of it, even a very large part of it. And I think there is more to it than that. Jesus’ miracles demonstrated his desire to right the wrongs…to take the broken things (due to the consequence of sin) and make them right again. Healing was a temporary reversal of the fallout of sin, for instance. Jesus is making things (in a temporary since at first) on earth as they are in heaven. So think of it as Jesus’ ultimate goal is the restoration of all things, to make them all new. So when he restores people in his ministry through miracles he is showing us something that points to the end goal.

          Great points/thoughts. Rudy.