Good Friday: The News Business vs. the Gospel Project

April 3, 2015

Today is Good Friday, the most solemn day of remembrance in the entire church year. On this day we recall the aftermath of Jesus’ betrayal by one of the twelve, his sham of a trial, his suffering, and his crucifixion in public view just outside the walls of Jerusalem.

For secular types in-the-know, Jesus’ appearance for judgment was an uncomfortable intrusion on their “live and let live” policy toward the Jews. For the Jewish elite in Jerusalem, Jesus’ latest offenses—including the raising of Lazarus (John 11) and his claim to deity at the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7-8) for instance—were the straws that broke the camel’s back. Something must be done with this man, or we are going to have an insurrection on our hands.

I wonder how 21st century news media would have covered the story, if press presence at Jesus’ middle-of-the-night trial might have held Romans and Jews accountable for their inept judicial proceedings. We know some of the inner workings of this process through eye-witness accounts gathered by the gospel writers from folks who must have been sympathetic to Jesus’ cause. But no one overtly stood up for Jesus, offered a defense, or otherwise provided a “fair trial.” He was “tried” by a hostile stampede of public opinion.

The news of Jesus death spread locally, but there was no 24/7 news cycle to analyze it from every angle or replay the scene ad nauseam. No, in those first couple of days, people retreated to their homes or walked along the way, dispirited and wondering, remembering his life and teaching and questioning whether they had gotten it wrong and that he wasn’t that special after all. I think they also wondered if this sort of injustice could happen to them, too.

And then Jesus rose from the dead, and within a matter of hours and days, he was appearing to hundreds of people and news spread through the witness of the apostles that Jesus was Lord, the Christ, and believing in him would impart salvation. This news, wholly unexpected and outrageous to the Powers That Be, nevertheless made its way into hearts and communities who demonstrated great faith and courage by believing and proclaiming it despite the hostile religious environment.

The Good News of the Gospel as we have come to know it was not a commodity to be sold but a message to be given to all who could possibly hear it. We are not part of the News Business, but participants in the Gospel Project. Its impact on individuals, villages, and societies in the two thousand years since is immeasurably for the good. As Paul would indicate in another letter, he did not personally gain by sharing this news. He was not charging a fee, selling commercials, or otherwise commoditizing the gospel for his own benefit. He sacrificed a lot, worked hard on the side to earn a living when he could, and ultimately was arrested in situations where the gospel was bad for business.

So when Paul asked for prayer that he could be clear about the gospel (Colossians 4:3-4) and bold in his presentation (Ephesians 6:19) he was demonstrating the priority of clear teaching over personal safety. His role was misunderstood apparently, because there were plenty of snake oil salesman giving itinerate preachers a bad name (2 Corinthians 4:1-2). Paul would not be one of those, and neither should we.

The news we have to share is lifechanging and very important. Its content is the Truth. By sharing it, we are not—are we—trying to pad our coffers, build a reputation, sell a product, or otherwise capitalize on the gospel. We are not in the News business; we are preachers and teachers of the gospel as potentially life-changing, personally transforming, and powerfully motivating.

We are never promised safety, but we are given inner peace. As we put our trust in Christ we are never to expect prosperity or the easy life, but we have his presence through thick and thin. The point of our discipleship (the discipline of apprenticeship to Jesus) is to gain enough strength in the Lord that we can remain standing through the difficulties that come with our allegiance to Jesus over any temporal power or ruling authority. That standing, in itself, becomes part of the testimony to the gospel—our willingness to put Jesus at the very center of our lives even at the expense of comfort, safety, or approval. In this, let us follow Jesus to the cross, die to ourselves, and live unto God.

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