The second command in God’s assignment is to “proclaim.” In Mark 16:15 Jesus said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Most of us understand what it means to proclaim something. It refers to making an announcement or a declaration. It is a presentation of information to an audience. So God expects us to do more than just go; He expects us to go with the purpose of delivering a message. But what is that message?
The Greek term from which we get the word “gospel” is euangelion, and it means “good news” (1). The word originally referred to “the reward offered to a messenger who brought news of victory in battle,” but, eventually, the term transferred its meaning from the reward the messenger received to “the content of the message he brought” (2). Once this transition in meaning occurred, euangelioin came to be used when any “good news” was received. This is evident from an ancient artifact called the Priene Calendar Inscription. This inscription is dated to approximately 9 B.C. and celebrated the birthday of the Roman Emperor Augustus by referring to it as “the beginning of the good tidings for the world” (3). In this context “the word euangelion was used to celebrate the ushering in of a new political leader and the optimistic future he might bring” (4). So, the word gospel refers to good news of victory and hope. Such an understanding of this term makes its use in the New Testament all the more impactful.
Consider for a moment what Paul said constituted the gospel that he preached. In 1 Corinthians 15:1, 3b-8, he wrote,
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
Which of these events – the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus – did Paul emphasize when he presented the gospel? He gave one verse to the death, half of a verse to the burial, and four and a half verses to the resurrection. It is quite apparent that the resurrection received more attention than all of the other events. Why? Because the resurrection is the source of “good news!“
Think about it. Is it good news that Jesus died? In other words, is the death of Jesus good news all by itself? No. Is it good news that Jesus’ lifeless body was placed in a tomb? No. Neither of these events, in and of themselves, is “good” news, and the behavior of the disciples demonstrates this fact. When Jesus died and was buried, did His disciples celebrate? When Jesus died and was buried, did His disciples go tell everyone in Jerusalem the “good” news? No. In the immediate aftermath of Jesus’ death and burial, all His disciples did was hide together from the Jews behind a locked door (John 20:19). They did not celebrate the weekend’s events because there was nothing to celebrate. They did not begin their evangelistic mission because there was no good news to proclaim. As one commentator said, “Until the disciples had met the risen Lord for themselves, and were truly convinced of His resurrection, they had no gospel to preach” (5). But everything changed that Sunday when Jesus revealed Himself to be alive. What appeared to be a tragic tale turned into a victorious announcement, all because of the resurrection.
Thus, the resurrection is the source of “good” news. In fact, Paul spelled this “good news” out for us throughout the remainder of 1 Corinthians 15. He indicated that without the resurrection “our preaching is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14), our “faith is futile” (1 Corinthians 15:17), our sins remain unforgiven (1 Corinthians 15:17), we have no hope of eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:17-18), and death remains unconquered (1 Corinthians 15:54b-57). So “the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mark 1:1) is that through His death and resurrection our greatest enemy has been defeated (Hebrews 2:14-15), and, as a result, we have hope of an “optimistic future” ahead (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). This is the “good news” that the world needs to hear! This is the message we are tasked to proclaim! Are you ready to “proclaim the gospel” to the world around you?
(1) Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 692.
(2) R.P. Martin, “Gospel” in The International Standard Encyclopedia, ed. George W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1982), 2:529.
(3) See Craig A. Evans, “Mark’s Incipit and the Priene Calendar Inscription.” Cited 5 October 2016. Online: http://craigaevans.com/Priene%20art.pdf.
(4) Jonathan Jones II, A graceful Uprising (Dallas, TX: Start2Finish Books, 2015), 19.
(5) R. Alan Cole, Mark, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 337.