After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1: 14-15
During Jesus’ ministry he continually proclaimed “the good news” and the arrival of the “kingdom of God.” We are so culturally accustomed to those words that they have lost the revolutionary force they orginally had.
In the original Greek text the word that we translate into English as “good news” is euangelion. In the Roman empire at the time of Christ, euangelion was the word for official imperial announcements, typically of some military victory. When the Jews of those days heard an euangelion, the “good news” was typically of some new Roman conquest, or some new honor or accolade for the emperor.
What a striking contrast the euangelion of Jesus was to the euangelion of the empire. It was if he was saying, “Forget the ‘good news’ of the empire, I’m bringing you the real good news–the good news of the kingdom of God.”
It is cool how Jesus and the early Christian church appropriated the language of the empire. Using imperial terminology to announce euangelion of a kingdom of love and peace, as opposed to an empire of slavery, torture and war, was just the beginning. The very words the empire used to describe Ceasar were applied by believers to Jesus.
In Brian McClaren’s awesome book The Secret Message of Jesus, he quotes an inscription from the time of Christ found in Myra, Lycia: “Divine Augustus Caesar, son of god, imperator of land and peace, the benefactor and savior of the whole world, has brought you peace.” Ceasar as son of god? Savior of the whole world? Prince of peace? Part of the euangelion that came with Jesus, was identification of the true authority to whom allegiance should lie.
There was no question of divided loyalty in those early days of the church. There were no patriotic Christians. While loyal Romans would pledge their allegiance by proclaiming, “Ceasar is Lord,” the early Christ-followers would say, “Jesus is Lord.”
The message of Jesus was audacious and radical. Employing the language of empire to announce a kingdom of peace was especially so.
One way to sum up the euavengelion of Jesus is…