Exploring Hope: Good news or bad news

If you went out to the street in America and ask people what they think Christianity is all about, you would get a lot of different answers. Some might say that Christianity is about rules and regulations. Others might say that Christianity is about church buildings, robes, and ceremonies. Others might say that Christianity is about bigotry and holding on to outdated values.

But most Americans would likely say that Christianity is about being a good person. They might say that it’s even good for people to attend church. They might want their children to be baptized. However, they only go to church on Easter and Christmas because it feels irrelevant for their daily lives.

Of course, if we really want to understand what Christianity is about, polling people on the street wouldn’t be the best option. It’s better to go back to the sources (ad fontes). And the earliest written biography of Jesus Christ is the Gospel of Mark. It was written only 25 years after the events of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Plus, it was written in close connection to eyewitnesses who actually knew Jesus (for more on this, check out “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” by Richard Bauckham). So, if you want to know what Christianity is all about, Mark is a great place to start.

Therefore, as a sample, let’s look at the first few words of Mark: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God.” What is Christianity all about? Well, according to one of the earliest sources, it’s about gospel.

Now, you may have heard gospel music. You may have heard people say, “He’s talking about that like it’s gospel.” But what does “gospel” mean? Well, most literally, it means good news. The Greek word translated gospel is the same word that might have been used to announce victory in war: “Good news (gospel), our army has been successful against the barbarians.”

But sadly, I doubt many Americans associate Christianity with good news. They may think it’s about bad news instead:

  1. Bad news – Here are a bunch of rules that you must follow in order to make God like you.
  2. Bad news –Go to church and sit in a hard chair for an hour and a half every week, so that you can sing strange songs and listen to a boring message.
  3. Bad news –Leave your brain at the door, ignore modern science, and stuff your head in the sand.

But according to Mark, Christianity isn’t bad news; it’s about good news. And not just any old good news. It’s good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Now, the opening verse of Mark doesn’t prove Christianity. But it’s claiming that the message of Jesus is the best news you’ve ever heard. It’s claiming that, as Christianity Explored says, “God has revealed himself in human history through Jesus Christ. And, when we look at Jesus, all the guessing games about God stop.” And if that’s true, it demands further investigation. Who is Jesus? Why did he come? And how can he make a difference for my life? Is this truly good news, or not?

About Will Stern

Originally from Colorado, Will Stern is the pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Garnet Valley. He majored in violin performance for his undergrad and taught violin for a number of years before being called into ministry. He studied theology at Duke University and Westminster Theological Seminary.

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