Soon after Jesus’ baptism, John was imprisoned and “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God” (Mark 1:14 NASB). His very first sermon, according to Mark, was this: “ ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’”
I hate the word gospel. Some English translations nowadays translate it
more recognizably as what the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον (euaggelion) actually meant in its time: good news. Even these translations, though, typically revert, here and there, to gospel. A word that blinks in and out of our consciousness without even a second of consideration. A word we all know. And don't know at all.
It started out as a good Old English word also meaning good news, derived,
etymologically speaking from its Anglo-Saxon roots, good and story. It ended
up being just another of those Christianese words whose meaning we have so circumscribed
as to forget what it even means—good news, glad tidings, a story we’re dying to
tell and others should be eager to hear—and undervalue what it’s really about.
The good news of God—or, as I prefer it, God’s good news—is not to
limited, as we so often limit it in our use of the word, to the death and
resurrection of Jesus, though that is certainly part of the story we believers long
to tell and that others should be eager to hear. God’s glad tidings includes also
the birth of Jesus in the first place, that God sent his son to our
world in the first place. Jesus’ teachings are also good news. That God’s work
is easy. That all we have to do is believe in the one God sent. That Jesus,
having returned to his father, is preparing a place for us. That he stands at
the door and knocks, excited to eat dinner with us.
Indeed, God’s good news is that he made us and loves us even
though we tend to discount or even deny his existence and abiding presence and
love. And that we have one another—that God saw it wasn’t good for us to be
alone and gave us lovers, friends, children. All the really good news of our
lives comes from God.
And every story of the Bible, however grim—and, believe me, the story
of the human race we call the Book is about the grimmest book you will ever
read—contains a mote or two of the best news ever. The promise that we can look
forward to a better world, a happier existence, some day in the future.
All this is buried in the word gospel,
a word we use so unthinkingly. So small-ly.