Did Jesus understand the Gospel? In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus gives some pretty serious warnings about a coming judgment (Luke 21), and yet He never asks anyone if they are sure that they would arrive in heaven when they die. In all 24 chapters of Luke’s Gospel, we never read a sermon about the priority of faith over “works” for salvation. Nor do we ever hear a sermon about the depravity of man. Did Jesus not know that these are the core issues of the Gospel? I am being facetious, of course. The point I am making is that Jesus does not seem to have the same controlling narrative that we would expect for the things that He does and says. Jesus speaks as a first century Jew who believes that He is appointed by God to bring the long-winding story of Israel to it's intended climax. When modern Westerners read the Bible, we are usually looking for it to give us the correct systematic theology for gaining entrance into heaven. Naturally, if we come to the text expecting it and wanting it to say something other than what it is designed to say, we will inevitably be left scratching our heads in confusion or trying to push the scriptures into a hole which it doesn’t fit. Neither of these are good options for disciples of Christ, nor for those who are seeking to make disciples.
When we talk about “sharing the Gospel”, we need to know that “the Gospel” according to Luke is the whole book - all 24 chapters and more. That is why we call it, “the gospel according to Luke” (Brilliant, isn’t it?). The Gospel is the good news that Luke is declaring and explaining throughout His book. Luke is explaining what Jesus has done, how it fits with the story of Israel, and where Jesus’ accomplishment has taken the story. According to Luke, Jesus has brought the story to the point where God has become King in and through Jesus, who, as the representative for the entire nation, has carried out the purpose of God through Israel, for the world. This is the point where the promises made to Abraham are being fulfilled. God told Abraham: “In you and in your family, I am going to bless all nations.” (Genesis 26:4) And now, as the newly installed, life-bringing Lord of the world, Jesus is offering the blessing of new creation to the whole world! As Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go and make disciples of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:18-19). This was always the purpose of God through Israel, for the world. Jesus has brought it about, Luke has given us a book to understand it, and we are called to continue the declaration. And by perpetuating this proclamation, we help make it a reality in the world.
Jesus did, of course, understand the Gospel. It is we who too often have not understood the Gospel. But there is no shame in that. We aren’t saved by our accumulation of knowledge or by having the right systematic theology. We are saved by the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit who comes to reside in us and give us life as soon as we acknowledge that Jesus is Lord of the cosmos and of our lives. THAT specific truth IS essential for salvation. But understanding the depth of what this Lordship means in your personal life and in the world as a whole, will take a lifetime and more to fully explore. And that is why we will continue to re-read the Gospels for the rest of our lives. It is no shame to not understand. But it is a shame to not seek a greater understanding while we have the opportunity. We need to let this narrative wash over us until it begins to regulate the rhythm of our own life completely and fully as God intends it. Jesus does understand the Gospel. Do you understand Jesus?