On Sunday, I preached on the gospel Jesus preached: the immediate availability of God’s reign (or government or political economy or kingdom) accessed by following Jesus. This requires a change of one’s mind and heart and behavior, nothing short of a consciousness shift. I pointed out:
- This gospel is preached without an atonement theory
- This gospel is preached before the cross and resurrection
- The gospel comes to include both cross and resurrection (and ascension and Pentecost, too) but this isn’t the gospel we see Jesus preaching in Mark 1:15
Let’s talk about how the death and resurrection of Jesus relate to this gospel of Mark 1:15 (something I didn’t do Sunday!)
Jesus died for our sins and rose again to raise us to new life. This is a common articulation you’ve probably heard some version of in the past. And we assume the ’sins’ here to be personal sins: lying, stealing, murder, etc. And that’s true. But more specifically, Jesus died for the sins he names, for instance, in his inaugural sermon in Luke 4:17-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
- The poor
- The prisoner
- The blind
- The oppressed
These are the people Jesus spent time ministering to during his ministry. The only one we don’t see him directly dealing with is “the prisoner,” but we can gain some insight into this when we remember that prisons in Jesus’ day weren’t for ‘common criminals’ like they are today. Prisons in Jesus’ day had two kinds of people in them: political dissidents and those who were indebted. Sometimes prison was called ‘debtors’ prison’ for this reason.
So don’t miss this: every time Jesus taught on money, he was seeking to undo the sinful mechanism whereby people got in debt and were thrown in prison. To live by Jesus’ economics—to follow Jesus in God’s kingdom—was to free prisoners from the reason they were thrown in prison.
Jesus’ death was for these sins, i.e. because of them. The ‘world’ system that created poverty (the poor), indebtedness (prisoners), economic and social ostracization (blindness, skin disease, etc) and political tyranny (oppressed) also crucified Jesus. Jesus was not ‘of the world’, i.e. he operated by a different logic, creating life instead of destruction.
Jesus died because of these sins—as a poor person, as a political dissident, as one ostracized from his family, as one scapegoated by the political/religious elite in Jerusalem. He died for them—to reveal their depravity and destruction as one of us for us. He died for us in that we share, or participate, in his death to this world and his triumph over it (resurrection) in our baptism (i.e. by faith).
Jesus died so we could die with him.
Jesus rose so we could rise with him.
His death and resurrection are crucial in that they signal the defeat of and triumph over death and all its friends: sin, destruction, corruption, decay, oppression, the accuser, violence, and enmity. Through trusting in his kingdom—changing our hearts and lives and following Jesus by ’taking up our own cross’—we learn to live according to the ways and logics of God’s good reign.
Take heart, beloved: Christ has overcome the world.
There is much more that I’ll have to save for another time due to the length of this letter, including how the ascension and Pentecost are related to the gospel proclamation. But I wanted to recognize that many of us grew up in churches with an understanding that the gospel was *only* about a *correct understanding* of *how the cross works,* and it needs to be said: this isn’t the gospel Jesus preached.
His gospel, I take on good faith, is much better.
Your servant for Christ’s sake –