Some 95 percent of today’s news is bad news, predominantly about crime and punishment, violence, cheating and stealing. Yet, in the Bible, Jesus says in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” What is preaching? And what is good news?
“Preaching,” according to the dictionary, “Is the delivery of a sermon or religious address to an assembled group of people, where the preacher earnestly advocates a belief or course of action; gives moral advice to someone.” Sometimes it is an annoying or pompously self-righteous way of speaking. But today many listeners or viewers want to be entertained, not preached at.
Good news, based on Jesus’ teachings, according to Luke 4:18, is the bringing of hope to the poor (in spirit); the proclamation of freedom for prisoner (people in bondage); the promise of sight to the blind (blind to truth); and the promise of relief to the oppressed (the down-trodden).
When did it the good news shift to bad news?
The early church — the Hebraic church — emphasized developing personal relationship with God. A writer of TGIF Meditations argues, “Today there is a struggle between the Greek versus the Hebraic church.”
When the Greek scholars entered the church, they began to affirm oratory skills, knowledge and reason and, as a result, the church began seeking disciples and teaching, thus losing focus on intimacy with God. Believers began to question miracles, choosing instead to focus on logic and what‘s wrong and, subtly, the focus shifted to bad news.
If we take the time to take a good look at what makes up good news, we will find, as Jesus did, that it pays to be Spirit-led and Spirit-filled and then we can see when God is producing the Spirit-empowered.
Reading the Bible is good and, yes, even preaching is good and when we expound on Scripture it brings the reading and the preaching together. Preaching the good news makes the reading more intelligible and the preaching more convincing.
For instance, Nehemiah, in the Old Testament (Chapters 1-3) led the effort to rebuild the Jerusalem wall and, afterwards, Ezra the Priest (Nehemiah 8:1-8) took the time to teach the people the Law of Moses and Jesus (Luke 4:18) stood up in the Temple to read from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah.
In all instances, they were Spirit-led and Spirit-filled and, thus, became Spirit-empowered. Being Spirit-led, Jesus came bringing hope to the poor (in Spirit). We should all wonder why Christ would speak such words of grace to graceless wretches like us. For it is as the slave ship Captain John Newton said, in the great hymn he penned called Amazing Grace: “I once was lost but now I’m found.”
Being Spirit-filled, Jesus came proclaiming freedom to the prisoner (those in bondage). Through Christ, sinners are loosed from the bonds of guilt and the bondage of corruption.
Being Spirit-empowered, Jesus came promising sight to the blind (those blind to the truth) and promising relief to the oppressed. By the power of His gospel, Christ came preaching the good news and to bring light to those who sat in darkness.
The oppressed often object to the preaching of good news because they are still using knowledge and reason to unpack God’s oratory, fighting the Hebraic way of church-building through an intimate relationship with God, choosing instead the Greek way of church-building, using logic to increase discipleship and reason to unpack miracles.
The good news is the doctrine of the cross and is a paradoxical proposition: “to live you must die” (Mark 8:35); “to gain you must give” (Matthew 19:21); and “all suffering has purpose” (Matt. 5:10-11).
So when we take time to hear the good news, we find it is Spirit-led, Spirit-filled and it will lead to a life that is Spirit-empowered.
*The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or email@example.com