Jesus is good news for the world, but good news doesn't always sound the way we expect. The first chapter of the Gospel of Mark begins with the words, "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." A little farther along in the chapter, Jesus proclaims, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."
So we're invited to believe in the good news?
Great. That sounds easy enough, right? Who doesn't like good news?
Generally, we associate good news with happy, pleasant feelings. If someone arrives to a family gathering with good news to share, we assume they have some announcement which will lead everyone to jubilation and delight.
So, with this common understanding of good news, it can be confusing when Jesus says things that don't sound especially happy or pleasant.
Jesus redefines good news, and he invites us to do the same.
Jesus is good news in the most expansive sense of the word "good." He's not good on the small scale like coffee or snow days or a perfect slice of pie. Jesus is good in a way that stretches beyond our comprehension. His good news is like a parched community receiving their first well or a war-torn land experiencing their first full day of peace. His good news is transformative and deeply rooted.
But to step into this good news of Jesus, we sometimes have to travel into uncomfortable, challenging territory.
It's definitely a misreading of the Bible to assume that Jesus wants us all to feel comfortable all the time.
However, it's easy to understand how many of us arrived at that incorrect assumption. For quite some time now, much of the Christian church, at least in this country, has equated following Jesus with being nice and agreeable. We've given into the temptation that being a good Christian means staying out of politics (or least never talking about it at church). We've avoided difficult conversations in favor of building inauthentic community.
Most of this was unintentional. We thought we were doing the good, nice, pleasant thing. We believed that our tepid approach was safe and right.
But now we're paying a collective national price for the massive oversimplification of what it means to proclaim God's good news and follow Jesus.
Church pews are now full of people who don't know what Jesus actually says about justice, helping the poor, consumerism, mercy and forgiveness. There are many Christians who don't know how fervently the prophets spoke against misuse of power. There are a lot of folks who deeply believe Jesus wants us to avoid conversations about what's happening in houses of government because it might cause a conflict in the church.
This is sad and unfortunate, and it's time for a change. We have to be willing to admit that Jesus' good news is not about everyone feeling happy all the time. We have the opportunity in this moment to learn how to disagree in healthy, life-giving ways within and outside our congregations.
The good news of Jesus is not about everyone gaining wealth. It's not about the success of market or the performance of our 401(k)s, and the gospel is certainly not about getting everyone to align with some moral code of behavior.
Instead, following Jesus into his good news story leads us into unexpected places. Sometimes the good news is like a nourishing balm. Sometimes it's a bitter pill that will heal us in the end. Following Jesus and hearing his good news sometimes leads us to rethink nearly everything about our lives, and that might leave us feeling uncertain about where we shop, how we vote, and what we do with our days.
Jesus' good news is the truth, and the truth sets us free. When we're willing to follow Jesus into his good news story no matter what the cost, everything becomes possible. Change, healing, justice, forgiveness, and renewal.
People are hungry for depth. We long for the goodness of God in the deepest sense of the word — goodness that is rooted somewhere other than the sensation of another "like" on Facebook.
Jesus is good news in the flesh, and we get to spend our lives exploring what that means. What a glorious adventure!