“After this the master commissioned seventy others, and sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he was intending to go. ‘There is a great harvest out there,’ he said to them, ‘But there aren’t many workers. So plead with the harvest-master to send out workers for the harvest.’” Luke 10:1-2 Jesus commissioned His disciples to preach the Gospel and to pray for more workers to be called to this vocation. Yet, at the time Jesus commissioned His disciples, He had not died nor risen from the dead yet, nor did anyone understand that this would happen. So, what did these harvesters go out to harvest? What did these preachers preach? Clearly, the one and only thing they could preach: “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Luke 10:9. The good news of the Gospel is that the Kingdom of God is arriving on earth as it is in heaven, in and through the work of Jesus. Ultimately, this would be accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus. But before that all-important event took place, the gospel of the Kingdom was still freely and gladly announced.
Simon Bar-Kokhba was a messianic candidate who lived around 100 years after Jesus who also declared that the Kingdom of God was arriving. This was good news, “gospel”, for those who believed it. Through newly minted coins stamped with the year “one” and with an image of the restored Temple on it, Simon declared through coins that the kingdom he was fighting for had already been established. Simon had not actually accomplished the restoration of the Temple but it was a declaration of intent and it was an announcement that the campaign was underway. In the same way, Jesus’ disciples and Jesus Himself announced the gospel of the arrival of the Kingdom of God in advance of the final actual accomplishment taking place. But by the announcement, the movement itself was launched or inaugurated. In effect, by announcing the kingdom before the final battle and accomplishment had taken place, Jesus and Bar-Kokhba committed themselves to the cause. Only time would then tell whether or not God would vindicate either one. It was like putting the gospel on layaway, taking it home before the price has been fully paid. But by taking it home, you are committing yourself to paying the price. That is one reason why the confession of faith in the gospel is just that, an act of faith. It is a risky wager with life and death consequences, not based upon a delicate scheme of systematic theology, but based upon a risky vocation that could end in a bloody mess. Jesus said as much when He warned His followers saying, “if any man wants to come after me, He must take up His cross and follow me.” Jesus called His followers then and He calls His followers now to a risky vocation and a dangerous act of faith. If there is no resurrection, Jesus is a fool who threw His life away and His followers aren’t any better. Either Jesus was vindicated by God by being raised from the dead, or He is an empty suit with nothing to offer anyone. Jesus commanded His followers to announce the Gospel, the good news, that the Kingdom of God has arrived on earth. But we can only obey that command if we believe that He is right. Personally, I do believe that Jesus has established God’s kingdom and that this is evidenced in His resurrection. As a result, I have taken up my cross to follow Him as true conviction leads me to do. It is a risky wager because the life I am being called to give up to Jesus, is the only one that I’ve got! But honestly, I have no doubt that this is the way of true life. I am not afraid. Do you believe that Jesus has established God’s kingdom on earth? Are you willing to risk your life for it?