What comes to mind when we hear the phrase “the good news”? Generally we think the gospel, yes. But what gospel? A set of beliefs including the virgin birth, incarnation, death, atonement, resurrection, repentance and salvation? Yes. What else?
As I looked to the gospels—in the study of the incarnation of Jesus that I’ve been describing throughout my blog this week—I paid particular attention to the inauguration of Jesus’ earthly ministry. How did Jesus frame his own “good news”?
John the Baptist first announced the coming of the Kingdom of God quoting Isaiah the prophet:
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness,‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” (Matt 3:1-3)
Jesus’ first public words announcing his own ministry were also quoted from the prophet Isaiah:
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Isaiah 61:16-20)
This is how Jesus chose to inaugurate his public ministry: with an announcement of good news, justice, and the release from captivity and oppression. Not only that, but he proclaimed that his arrival was what was bringing this vision about—he would accomplish it.