This past week, while considering the promise of Jesus to be forever with us, it struck me that the good news of the Christian Faith is simply Jesus. Not the Gospel of Jesus is . . . (fill in the blank.) but rather, the Gospel is Jesus.
I think we complicate things by trying to turn the gospel either into a spiritual formula or into a social program. Either we tend to understand the good news of Jesus as the way to secure personal salvation–say this prayer, and your soul will be guaranteed eternal salvation in heaven someday, or we tend to view the gospel as carrying on the mission Jesus had among the poor and outcast–heal the sick, feed the hungry and provide for the homeless, and you will help establish the kingdom of God on earth someday. The first tendency views the gospel primarily through a personal spiritual lens focused on heaven; the latter, through a public physical lens focused on earth. There is truth to be found in both tendencies, but I think both sometimes focus on Jesus as a means to some future hope and fail to recognize Jesus AS the hope and end of the Gospel.
When Jesus preached the Gospel, He said, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He was not thinking of some distant future spiritual heavenly kingdom, nor was he envisioning a far off utopian earthly kingdom. He proclaimed the kingdom of heaven had come near, because the King from heaven had returned. God had come to dwell again among His people, this time in the flesh!
The apostle Paul writes in Colossians (2:9), “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Another way to say this is: Jesus is Emmanuel (meaning God with us). Jesus is the incarnation of the great I AM. (It bears pointing out, I think, that the name by which God reveals Himself is not a future tense.) To embrace Jesus, then, is to embrace the eternal and glorious presence of God, which is to embrace the Gospel (good news) of God.
Jesus is the Gospel. The Gospel is Jesus. Surely, more can be told, but let us receive by faith with joy the good news that Jesus our Emmanuel, the great I AM, is eternally present with (and in) us both now in this life and in the life of the world to come.