THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS CHRIST
There are two things very important that we sometimes forget: first, Jesus Christ is the center of our Christian beliefs, and second, Jesus’ message must be the standard for all of our Christian messages.
First, Jesus claims to be the center and the climax of salvation promised from of old through the means of the Old Testament. The whole salvation history in the Old Testament, in Christian perspective, is summed up in the longing for the saving Messiah, the One who starts a new age of the Reign of God with blessings and forgiveness. Jesus comes and claims to be That One: “Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” (Mt 13:17) In Jesus salvation has become a reality: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” In Jesus blessing and forgiveness are clearly present: “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.” In Jesus, history has turned over a new page: the promise from of old now becomes a reality. He claims to surpass all the prophets and other great figures in the Old Testament of whom John the Baptist is the ultimate representative: “I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he,” because the Kingdom of God is now and from now on happening in Jesus. The period of promises is over. Now is the period of fulfillment in Him.
Second, Christian biblical scholars today may vary in their opinions on many issues, but the great majority of them agree on one special point: all the words and deeds of Jesus are about the Good News of the Reign of God. What is the Good News here? It is that the Reign of God does not exclude anyone but embraces all. This is the principle of the Reign of God that Jesus has sacrificed his life to proclaim it. Father Don Buggert, a Christology professor, comments that the image of the loving God that Jesus proclaims is the result of a fierce battle with other views about God, e.g. God is just, stays away from sinners, and punishes them. The absolute portrait of God that Jesus manifests is an ever merciful and loving God, so merciful and loving that God becomes ‘unjust’ according to our human rule of justice. As I mentioned, Jesus has been willing to die for this image of God. The contemporary society of Jesus (and of ours today???) set up ‘norms’ to categorize, to judge, and even exclude “sinners” because these “sinners” are considered unworthy of the mercy and forgiveness of God. Jesus breaks down this view when joining the excluded to free them from fear by proclaiming to them the good news of the loving Father. Jesus has experienced such a deep love that the Father has for humanity. He knows that only when people experience that love as deeply as He does do they become free and live beautifully as the Father wishes them to. By associating with sinners in eating with them, sharing their bad-looking social status, Jesus has turned the image of a God ‘reserved’ for the righteous into a God reaching out for the sinful. This is a terrible scandal to many contemporaries of Jesus (and of ours???). Jesus has turned upside down the keeping-face-for-God view and replaced it with a profound experience of the loving Father. If they cannot accept the ‘more merciful than just’ God of His, He then cannot accept their image of a God excluding his children who are struggling with their sins. Finally, Jesus has been willing to sacrifice his life to protect that image of God. The concern of Jesus, and hence of God, is not about keeping God’s face or honor, but about life and happiness for humanity including you and me. Saint Irenaeus describes it succinctly: “God’s glory is man fully alive.” Furthermore, Jesus manifests not only that God loves sinners, but also that God can die for them out of His great love by taking upon Himself their sins: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5: 8). It is very important to remember that what Jesus does for the salvation of humanity is what the Trinity does. Therefore, all of our Christian messages must be based on the foundational message of Jesus Christ.
You and I are called to be disciples of Jesus. The mission of disciples is to continue living and proclaiming the way of the master. May we be good disciples of Jesus, proclaiming the only Good News: God loves and embraces all.