the good news
If you're a sports fan, on the 6th July 2005, Britain heard some really good news as London was awarded the 2012 Olympic Games. Londoners were delighted as they applauded the huge work that had gone into securing the games - an event through which huge areas of east London will be redeveloped for the benefit of future generations.
But on the 7th July we were greeted by very bad news as we learned of the bombs going off in our capital city. I am not a Londoner, but we live close enough to know that the difference between the two days was palpable. High elation one day, was contrasted by a deep, sinking feeling of uncertainty the next day. It was as if that was what the bombers intended, to rob people of their future and hopes. Good news turned very quickly into bad news, and there was nothing that could be done about it.
This is similar, to an event which took place 2000 years ago, whose consequences still affect us today. But this event was the other way round. First was the bad news, and then came the good news. Let me tell you about it:
Jesus had been gathering His disciples and teaching them for three years or so. And, following Him around, His disciples had seen remarkable things. They had seen Him walking on water, calming a storm, feeding thousands in the wilderness, healing lepers, driving out demons and even raising the dead. They were remarkable times, for they were with a remarkable Person.
What also set Him apart from the crowd was the way He taught - with authority. He spoke like an eyewitness of the things of heaven, and not like the rest of their rabbi's. His words seemed to have an inner power and depth, He understood the things of God that they had never heard before. His message was radical too - and this won some enemies as well as friends.
Then, after three years everything seemed to be coming to a head. As they headed up to Jerusalem, it tangibly felt like the Kingdom of God was about to appear, the enemies of God overthrown and the people set free. As they journeyed, Jesus asked His disciples "Who do people say that I, the Son of Man, am?" And they answered, "Some say you are John the Baptist, some Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the prophets." Then Jesus asked them another question, "But who do YOU say that I am?" This time it was Peter who answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:13-20).
As they thought about Peter's answer, they just knew it was absolutely true. Yes! Jesus was the Christ, He was the Messiah that God had promised all along, and that meant the Kingdom of God would soon be established. And yes, He was the Son of the Living God! There was just no way He could do the things He did, unless He had come from God. And as they looked at Him, they could just seem to learn about God from His every thought, word and action. If God could have a Son, then surely Jesus was God's Son!
Then Jesus spoke again: "Simon, you are blessed indeed, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven." Yes! Peter was right. And wow! He had not worked this out himself, God had revealed it to him. But then Jesus immediately spoke of going straight up to Jerusalem and suffering and even dying. It just didn't make sense.
How was He going to put everything right if He just went up to Jerusalem and was killed?
But that's where they were headed and that's just what happened. As they entered Jerusalem, there were crowds enough, and they seemed to welcome Him like a gentle conquering king as He curiously rode in on a donkey. But you could feel the hatred of the religious leaders as they stood behind the crowd, stony-faced and hardhearted. And then, just the night before Passover, one of their own - Judas went and betrayed Jesus for money. It was just unthinkable. He had been with them from the beginning and seen it all, how could he do that?
The next thing they knew, was that Jesus had been arrested and put before a mockery of a night time trial. Just because they were ruled by the Romans, they accused Him of treason for He had said He was the King of the Jews. Of all people, He certainly seemed worthy of the title.
Then, before they really grasped what was happening, Jesus had been condemned by the Romans. They cruelly mocked and whipped Him and then He was taken out and crucified as a criminal and ended up dead. All their hopes were dashed in a sickening slide of events in which they seemed like pawns who could change nothing. Jesus was not a criminal. He was not worthy of death. This was not the right end. And yet, this is what they faced as they wrapped Jesus' dead body in linen and closed Him up in the tomb. Why did it end this way? It had to be the worst day in the history of the world.
The weekend dragged long and life seemed to have been turned backwards. Now, there seemed like no hope for the future. Every dream had been dashed. Jesus, who they thought was the Christ, had been cruelly taken from them, now what hope was there? The bad news seemed to suck the spirit out of them and leave them deflated and dejected.
But then came Sunday morning. As the women returned to the tomb to finish dressing the body for final burial, they discovered the tomb was empty. Then, suddenly a Man appeared to one of them - and Mary recognised Him - it was Jesus! She ran to tell the disciples. They couldn't believe at first, and it wasn't until Jesus appeared to all of them on a number of occasions that the truth really began to dawn on them.
Jesus was the Christ, He was the Son of God, but in order for the Kingdom of God to be established, the reign of Satan and the power of death had to be broken. That's why Jesus had suffered and died. This was what the prophets had spoken of. Just as a lamb was substituted for Isaac, and the passover lamb's blood was daubed on the door posts and lintel when God delivered Israel from Egypt, so it was necessary for Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day. This was Good News indeed! Jesus was risen and we shall be raised too! The chains of death have been loosed, the stronghold has been broken into and the captives set free!
Now just as Christ rose from the dead, so can each one of us, if we believe in Him. God's justice has been satisfied, by Jesus Christ His Son, who bore our penalty, died, was buried and rose again for us.
And then, fifty days later, came Pentecost. When God poured out His promised Spirit upon His disciples and empowered them to do His work. For now that Christ had permanently broken the enemies' power, He wants the Good News proclaimed in every part of the world.
Since that day, countless millions have put their trust in Him and found forgiveness of sin and a fresh new start to their lives. What about you? The cross of Christ is the cross-roads of life. Why be satisfied with an empty life here, with only earthly, temporary realities, when God wants to give heavenly, eternal realities both now and in full in the life to come? The great barrier is your sin - but Christ bore it's penalty on the cross. Let Him declare you saved today, by asking Him to forgive you and trusting Him to save your soul.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, (r)that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish, (r)but have everlasting life.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, (r)but that the world through Him might be saved."
Gospel of John Chapter 3 verses 16-17
... the bad news