“Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” ~Mark 16:8
If it’s real, I have to tell. If Jesus really is the risen Messiah, if he really was raised from the grave, and if we really are forgiven and restored and righteous because Christ Jesus is crucified and resurrected, then we have to tell. But we’re so reluctant to tell. For some reason we run and hide
It’s not because we’re bashful. We’re not shy. If I find a new restaurant or a new album or a new soap, I’m telling people about it. “It smells great and it doesn’t dry out my skin!” Come on, we all do that. “That Longhorn Steakhouse on I-40, you’ve got to try it!” “Tom Petty’s new album, you’ve got to get it!” “That Cloverfield movie, you’ve got to see it! It’ll mess you up!” We all do this. When something brand new impacts me, I want other people to experience it, too. And I’m talking about it all the time.
“They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
Are we afraid? Is that why we don’t tell? We’re probably not afraid of being persecuted or killed if we tell. What are we afraid of? Are we afraid that maybe the Gospel is old news?
I wonder if we define the Gospel as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus that happened almost two-thousand years ago? If so, it’s not really news. It’s not right now. And I was saved a long time ago. I was buried with Christ in baptism almost 40 years ago. I was raised with Christ, I put on Christ decades ago. Is that why we don’t tell? Because it doesn’t feel fresh? Is it not much more than the memory of something you obeyed a long time ago and you’re glad you did? Are we afraid the Gospel is irrelevant? Maybe it’s historical and theological and religious and good — but it’s not going to be super helpful or practical for my friends. Not like a new toothpaste or a place that serves really awesome bread sticks.
Let me challenge your thinking on this: the Gospel is not a point in history. The Gospel is not an event in time. The Gospel is what God is doing, what God has always been doing, and what God will continue to do in the future. The Gospel, the good news of salvation from God, is not limited to the first four books of the New Testament. The Gospel is what God has been doing since time began and what he keeps doing until the end.
When God doesn’t destroy Adam and Eve, that’s the Gospel. When God delivers the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, that’s the Gospel. When God forgives David, when he rescues Daniel, that’s the Gospel. It’s ongoing, continuous, and relevant to every human need. You name any need, you define any problem, and the Gospel is the answer. Jesus showed us.
Jesus shows us a man who’s been beaten up, lying in a ditch. I’ve got good news for that man: he’s going to get picked up! He shows us a rebellious son who runs home to his father smelling like a pig pen. I’ve got good news for that son: he’s going to get hugged! The man falls on his knees in front of Jesus and says, “Heal my child if you’re willing.” “I’ve got good news for you,” Jesus says, “I am willing!”
That’s the Gospel, today, yesterday, and tomorrow. God is involved and things are changing. The Kingdom of God has broken in. Jesus is risen and Jesus is Lord! That is very much today and very fresh and very right now. Jesus is Lord and he is fixing everything and he wants everybody to get in on it!
So I can’t just be a shopkeeper. Our churches can’t just hold religious services. We can’t just mark time.
It’s not old or irrelevant. His mercies are new every morning. We are being renewed by his Spirit day by day.
And we should probably stop saying the phrase “1st Century Church.” That’s not helping. We’re not the 1st Century Church. We can never be the 1st Century Church even if we wanted to be the 1st Century Church. And who would want to be? The Gospel demands that we be a 21st Century Church doing 21st Century things in 21st Century ways right now today in our 21st Century world. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is not a moment, it’s a movement! It’s fresh. It’s new. It’s very relevant.
When you tell a dying man that God will take care of his family, you’re telling the Gospel. When you tell a lonely woman that she’s invited to a feast and to join a family, you’re telling the Gospel. When you cry and pray with the parents of a gay son or a lesbian daughter and you tell them God loves you and God loves your child and this thing’s not over yet, you’re proclaiming the Gospel. You’re sharing the good news, even with people who are already saved.
“The Word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.” ~Romans 10:8