Good News for All Peoples

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Luke 24:44-48

The gospel is meant for all nations, all classes, groups and subcultures, especially the most neglected and despised.

This is the last in our series on the most beautiful book in the world, the Gospel according to Luke. We’ve been thinking about different facets and different celebrations of the Good News in this Gospel.

Today it’s the good news that’s for all people. I hope that this will speak to your heart as it has to mine. It’s a vision both individualizing and worldwide. I hope it will help us all to get in touch with the breadth and depth of God’s loving concern for human beings for folks like us, and all the ones different from us. I remember hearing a speaker say at a conference years ago that we all tend to hear the Great Commission selectively. That was Lutheran Oswald Hoffman at a national conference on evangelism. I’ve thought of that often since. We all have a way of blocking out the scope, the reach, the inclusiveness of God’s loving purpose.

The Lord told his followers, remember, that they were to preach the gospel to “all nations.” But they heard that as “all Jews.” That’s how they started their evangelizing. It took persecution in Jerusalem to send out believers and repeated visions for Peter to make the message clear: the gospel is for the Gentiles too!

And we tend to have the same problem. I tell our Reformed Church people sometimes that we have heard the Great Commission like this: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to Middle Class Americans of Dutch descent.” That’s generally the way we have tended to do it. And not ourselves only. It’s a tendency with all of us. Even when we sense the power of the missionary call, we can tune it selectively. “Go and preach the gospel” means only to people across the ocean, or at least a thousand miles away. Very few hear it as “all kinds of people everywhere, beginning where you are.”

Good News for Every Marginalized Group

But this is the good news, friends, for “all people.” Notice, first, God’s concern for all kinds and classes of people, especially every marginalized group. The keen edge of Luke’s Gospel cuts at the root of all the hedges we tend to build between ourselves and others. This is a message devastating to exclusiveness, pride, prejudice and biased respect of persons, those unlovely traits we spot in others but rarely recognize or admit in ourselves. In Jesus’ time people lived with many of the distinctions and divisions we still have today of race, religion, custom, gender, social class and economic standing.

Luke shows Jesus again and again, cutting across those lines of distinction, smashing those separating barriers. I remember Frost’s poem “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”? That something, that someone, is Jesus.

Think about the poor. Many times in the gospel Jesus speaks about the poor and pronounces blessings upon them. He was born to a poor woman. He spoke of how the poor Lazarus would be in heaven, whereas the rich man who had ignored his need would be in another place. And yet the wealthy, the well-off, are sometimes inclined to view those in poverty with superiority and condescension. Not Jesus. He called himself “one sent to preach good news to the poor.”

And what about women? In Jesus’ time women were regarded by men as distinctly inferior. Some Jewish liturgies in the inter-testamental period recorded men praising God that they weren’t born women. There are cultures still today in which the birth of a male baby is celebrated, but females are considered unfit to live. Into a strongly male-dominated culture came Jesus who accepted support from women, and who permitted Mary sit at his feet to hear his word. He showed marvelous respect and concern for women. And they were most loyal to him in the time of his suffering and crucifixion.

Then there’s the matter of race. Jews tended to look down on Samaritans. They thought they were half-breeds, heretics, compromisers. The only grateful one, though, among the lepers whom Jesus healed was a Samaritan. And Jesus made a Samaritan the hero of one of the most beautiful, moving, memorable parables he ever told: the Good Samaritan.

Think of the tax collectors and sinners, despised by the upper classes, by the very religious in Israel. But Jesus goes to their homes. Jesus even called one of them to be his disciple. Jesus was called “the friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Enemies said that with a sneering tone, but we celebrate it as one of the wonderful things about Jesus.

It wasn’t that he was against the establishment, against the in-groups. He went to the homes of the rich. He called men to be his disciples. He cared about the Jews. He made them his first concern. And the Pharisees Jesus went several times to dine in their homes. He wasn’t what Gert Bahanna once called herself: “a snob about snobs,” somebody who looks down on people who look down on other people! He had a heart for everyone, but especially for those who were despised, rejected and scorned every marginalized group.

Good News for All Nations

You also see in Luke how the gospel is good news for all nations. Simeon sees that, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for God’s people Israel.” John the Baptist proclaims that God’s salvation will be seen by all flesh. In Jesus’ genealogy he’s traced all the way back to Adam to show that he’s a child of the whole human race, sent for every nation and people.

And from east and west, north and south, Jesus tells us they will come to the kingdom of God. He will be a light to the Gentiles, God’s salvation to the ends of the earth. And you trace in the book of Acts “a tale of three cities” from Jerusalem to Athens to Rome. As Acts ends, Paul is in Rome wanting to go on to Spain, or wherever else Christ has not been named.

God’s “Big Compelling”

Now one of the things I notice in the Gospel according to Luke, as I think about the Good News for all nations, is God’s “Big Compelling.” That’s a phrase that I first met in the writings of Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest: “the Big Compelling of God.” Think about that for a moment. The message I would most have wanted to hear is not from great preachers like John Chrysostom or George Whitfield or Charles Spurgeon, though I would have loved to hear any one of them. The greatest message for me would have been the one described in Luke 24:27. Jesus, walking with two men on the road to Emmaus, opens the Scriptures and explains to them in all the Scriptures the things about himself. Wouldn’t that have been great to hear! What Scripture passages did he use? How did he apply them to his person and work?

Well, we don’t have that. But we do have the next best thing which is a summary of it. Jesus in Luke 24:44ff sums up the Old Testament message in three great things that must happen in order for God’s purpose to be fulfilled, in order for the loving heart of God to be satisfied, in order for salvation to come to his people.

First, the Messiah must suffer. Jesus had to bear our sins and sorrows. He had to die for us. There was no other way. Without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sins. As the hymn says, “There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin. He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.” Jesus knew that was his destiny. He knew he had to die and he marched straight toward that suffering as he moved through his ministry.

Here’s the second event: the Son of Man must rise from the dead. He cannot save us as a corpse. He had to rise in order for us to be sure that our sins are forgiven, in order for the victory to be won and new life to be granted to all God’s people.

But the third thing Jesus says has to happen is that repentance and forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all the nations. This is striking because the first two God does all by himself, the crucifixion and the resurrection. But in this one we human beings are involved. And because we’re not very good material, that’s a pretty risky enterprise! Here’s God’s strategy: the sending of the Spirit. The great thing the Holy Spirit does when he comes is bring believers into vital union with the living Christ. It’s as though Christ is the dynamo of electric power, and here are our powerless lives. The Holy Spirit makes the connection. Christ is the reservoir of the living water, and we are parched and barren. It’s the Holy Spirit who creates the aqueduct. When the Holy Spirit moves into our lives and unites us with Christ, he begins to form in us the same passion to share the good news that is in the heart of Jesus. That’s the Big Compelling of God.

Where We Fit In

When the longing that’s in the heart of the Lord for other people to become Christians begins to get into our hearts and finds expression in our lives, we share Christ’s vision. We begin to see people as he sees them. And as Jesus told us, we begin to pray for laborers, that God will send out workers to take the gospel everywhere.

And as we pray for laborers, we also make ourselves available. After Jesus told these disciples to pray for laborers, we read a few verses further on that they were the first to be sent. So when you begin to pray about these things, get ready, because the Lord may want to make use of you!

And we make ourselves available. We step across the barriers the way Jesus did, and we share the good news. We’re witnesses to what the Lord has done. We tell the story of his great love in Christ. We don’t convert people. We don’t pressure them. Rather, we invite them. We love them. Our mandate is to be faithful witnesses to Jesus in lives of obedience and love. We’re simply faithful to the Lord. We do it for the sake of Jesus, in the name of Jesus, by the power of Jesus. So let’s keep it up!