(Hebrews 9:24-end; Mark 1:14-22) “After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.” Good news! We could do with a bit more of that. Because there is an awful lot of bad news around at the moment. There always is, but it seems especially bad at the moment. Globally and nationally. I won’t spell it out, because it’s there all the time on the news. But locally, too, services are in decline, shops are closing, and there are building works and road works everywhere you turn. While a far number of us are coping with our own share of personal or family worries and woes. We could do with some good news!
And they probably thought that in Jesus’ day. Look, the situation must have felt pretty bleak for them. For the ordinary man and woman, in particular, life was not good. The country were under foreign occupation. The leaders were fighting their own battle, to preserve their own interests. (Sounds familiar). And to cap it all, John the Baptist, the most recent prophet on the scene, had been arrested and thrown into prison.
Then along comes Jesus proclaiming good news, saying, ‘The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God has come near.’ A message of hope – but not quite in the way, as things turn out, that they might have imagined.
Because what they got, first of all, is not the great supernatural intervention, or the mighty political revolution, that they were hoping for, but Jesus himself. And what they got, second, was the call to repent and follow him. Illustrated in the story of the first disciples, who do just that – leave behind their father and their boats, and without further ado, follow him.
And these two things – the message of hope, and the call to follow – are necessarily and inseparably bonded together. So Jesus does come from God to bring healing, to tackle evil, and to show the world a better way. But he did not, and does not today, instantly make everything alright and enforce the rule of God. Instead he calls men and women to receive him to themselves, to turn around and shape their lives around him. So that they might become, in his likeness and his service, themselves the good news and the bearers of good news.
I’m not saying therefore that we have to become the source of that for which we hope. Because there is in Christ a grace and a power and a direction and an assurance that we wouldn’t otherwise have. But the whole point of Jesus’ coming, of the coming of God in human form, is that God’s chosen way of saving and healing and reforming the world is through human agency. Jesus first, then those who belong to Jesus, and ultimately through all people of peace and goodwill. It is as if God is saying, it is by the humans that the world is mucked up, so it is by humans that the world is to be repaired, as and when they find their healing and reorientation in Christ and allow the spirit of Christ to work in them and through them.
As I say, these two things belong together. First: the proclamation of the good news of the nearness of God’s kingdom. Things don’t have to be this way. People can change. Situations can change. Whole systems can change. And it’s not that difficult to grasp – not that complicated, or that far away. The kingdom of God is at your finger tips, right here, right now, just as people start living by love, in peace, and for justice.
Second: the call to repent and trust that it is so. And become the followers and successors of Jesus - literally, those who ‘come after’ him. And so become themselves carriers of good news. A person whose presence and discourse is good news to others. And continue the process, the new world of hope, begun by Jesus, by, as it is described in the gospels, becoming “fishers of people.” That is to say, by sharing with others and inviting them in return, and in response, to be recipients, bearers and practitioners of the good news of God.
Today of all days, we are conscious of the enormity of what human beings can do. The courage, the heroism, the sacrifice. The destruction, the suffering, the slaughter. Men and women at their best and humanity at its worst. And our act of remembering is in its own way an act of repentance, as we are summoned to turn away from evil and commit ourselves, as the act of remembrance says, “to help, encourage and comfort others, and support those working for the relief of the needy and for the peace and welfare of the nations.”
Not just thinking about the great global problems of our day, but even sometimes in our own lives, or vicinity, our inclination may be to wonder whether things will ever get any better. But responding to the good news means believing that things can change, and things can get better.
And being part of the good news doesn’t mean that I’ve got to change the world, but it does mean being part of the solution, and doing what I can, and wherever I can, to make a difference.
Being good news. And bringing good news. Not complaining about how dreadful everything is and, and carping and criticising, but looking for the good, noticing the good, and talking it up wherever it may be found –especially as it’s found in Jesus. Amen.