And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.
This one word, gospel, is perhaps one of the most misunderstood words even spoken. It has been used to move crowds and nations. It’s been used as a rallying cry for action, even violence. It has had many different meanings and continues to go through more transformation.
But we’re going to take a moment to look at and listen to the word that Jesus used. It’s vitally important to understand what Jesus was talking about when he discusses the gospel, or we’ll miss the entire meaning of his words.
There are two ideas behind our word gospel.
First – Good. When something’s good, it is more than just the idea of being good. It’s actually been done well. It’s more than just been accomplished, but it’s been completed with good results. When someone’s done something good, they’ve not just spoken rightly, but they’ve done, acted, accomplished what’s right. They’ve acted properly with good, positive motives, actions, and results.
Second – News. This is more than just information or facts. It’s the person who is sharing the message. This messenger comes to tell, to proclaim, to communicate. And what they communicate has already happened. It was accomplished in the past. News is never about what is going to happen. Or even what’s in the process of happening. It’s always what has already happened.
Someone once told this story to explain both ideas.
There was a walled city that was about to be attacked by a fierce enemy. And the only purpose of that enemy was to destroy. The enemy was on the march, they were coming for that city. The city was without an army to defend it, and they didn’t have money to bribe their enemy to leave them alone. The enemy would be there in a few days, and there was nothing that they could do.
One night, a lone man went outside the city gates to see what was going on, when the enemy would arrive. As he traveled, he looked and looked for the enemy, but they were nowhere to be found. To his astonishment, they had been defeated by a neighboring town.
He was so happy. He was overjoyed. He ran back to his city, screaming, shouting, waving his arms in excitement. The guards at the gate saw him but weren’t certain what he was saying. They notified their commanders that this one guy was shouting and screaming as he approached the city, but they weren’t certain what this meant. As you can imaging, this kind of news could not be contained, it spread like wildfire throughout the whole city.
As he approached, the city gates were opened, letting him in to a waiting crowd. He told them everything; their enemy was not just gone but defeated. Their city and everyone in it were free. They were safe. They were saved. There was an immediate, spontaneous celebration. Everyone screamed, cried, shouted for joy. Everyone opened their houses to strangers, inviting them in for a feast of their best food. Their best drink. Nothing was held back. This was a day to remember.
Now that’s good news. And that’s what gospel means.
It’s not just some idea to be kicked around. It’s something really good that must be acted upon immediately. If it doesn’t inspire and motivate you to do something in response, then you haven’t really experienced gospel good news.
I’m not trying to put down what you’ve heard. What you’ve experienced. But gospel good news is always, always, always life changing. It shatters the current situation. It’s more than a slight course correction. It’s more like picking up the ship and pointing it in an entirely different direction. Headed for a different port. A different destination.
That’s what the gospel of Jesus is like. It shatters the status quo of guilt and shame. It breaks the chains that have kept us prisoners of ourselves. The old hymn says it so well.
He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood availed for me.
But it doesn’t stop there. Jesus does more than free us from the chains of our evil words, thoughts, actions, and attitudes. Are you ready for this?
He frees us from our own goodness. Our self-righteousness. No longer are we tied to the idea of trying to be good, to earn the love of God or others. We’re free and empowered to do what is right because we are loved by God. And that love will never fail us, never leave us.
Now that’s really, really, good news!
 O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing, Charles Wesley, 1780