In the last couple of weeks while reading Acts, I came across verses talking about the Good News such as: “But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went” (Acts 8:4). It made me wonder, what is the “Good News?” Why do we Christians call it that? What is the News and why is it so Good?
It was actually fairly easy to answer my own question when I thought about Christianity in relation to other major Abrahamic religions such as Judaism and Islam. It still blows my mind that these 3 religions all worship the same God - the God of Abraham. The key difference is, in Christianity, we believe that Jesus is not just another prophet or teacher but is THE savior of the world. Which means we aren’t waiting anymore! The Good News is that Jesus has come. We are saved. Why does this matter?
It is a pretty big deal for God himself to come down to Earth to offer, well, himself as a blood sacrifice in our place so that we may spend eternity with him. I still think God requiring a blood sacrifice to atone for human sin is pretty freaky. And each time, I am reminded that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). As in, the only possible consequence of sin is death. Why? The opposite of a perfect, living, God is evil and death. Anything less than perfect has no place near a perfect God. The way we can get around that is to live a perfect life. Of course, we humans are 100% incapable of doing that, so God found another way. And that way is Jesus.
I often wonder why/how did God come up with this alternative plan to save humanity? How did he think, “oh, I require a sacrifice for every little sin you make, and animals are fine for now, but one day I’m going to send my own son as the ultimate, perfect, sacrifice for all of humanity so you won’t have to keep doing that?” Like, where did this magic formula for saving our souls come from?
As I am writing this, I am reminded of when God called Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac - only to stop him in time and provide a lamb instead (Genesis 22) - as a foreshadowing of what God was going to do for us. Only Jesus was the sacrificial lamb. (Last year I realized that the Old Testament contains a lot of foreshadowing of Jesus’s coming, and once I realized that, the OT became a lot more interesting to read). In the end, I can only accept that I am not God so I will probably never understand his grand plan, but I can accept it.
And that’s all he wants of us! Accept his crazy sacrifice, and that’s it. I say crazy because it’s insane for a Father to send his Son to the chopping block to take the place of strangers. But that’s what God does for us to ensure our ticket to heaven. It all seems so simple, and it kind of is. The core tenant of Christianity can be summed up in one sentence: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Forget all the other issues that Christians debate about. This is the most important thing that ALL Christians should believe in. If you believe that Jesus is God and that he sacrificed his life for you, then you are saved. You get to party in heaven with God. This is Good News!
Then we get to today - Easter. Easter is celebrated on Sunday, three days after Jesus’s sacrificial death on Good Friday. Why is this day a big fat deal for Christians? Easter is the day Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead. Yeah, that’s a wild claim, but if we believe that Jesus is God, then of course he can conquer death. Or vice versa - if Jesus died in our place for our sins (which, remember, the consequence is death) but then overcame death by coming back to life, then he is the ultimate badass! This is why Christians believe that Jesus is God, not a prophet/teacher because he overcame death. Even his own disciples thought he was a teacher all along until he appeared to them after coming back to life. Only then did they “get it” and realize that their Teacher was, in fact, God all along!
By conquering death, Jesus is showing us a taste of what our eternity will be like as well. No longer are we condemned to eternal death, but we are made alive with Christ (Ephesians 2). Now that Jesus has sacrificed himself for humanity’s collective sins, God sees us through this new lens. We are still nowhere near perfect, but God accepts Jesus as our atonement. This means he forgives us for our past, present, and future sins. It allows us to directly commune with God - worship him, spend time with him, and converse with him, for the rest of our lives and all of eternity. This is Good News!
I write all this not only for others, but also as a reminder to myself. Last year around this time, lockdown was just beginning and I fell into a deep spiritual pit. Everyone around me was all, “Happy Easter! He is risen!” And I couldn’t bring myself to care. I had heard the same phrase over and over the last 20 years of my life. It became another rote phrase to say. The significance of what Jesus had done just could/did not sink in for me at that time. This year, in response to my own curiosity, I broke down all this theology for myself. If you read it and some of it made sense, then awesome! Praise God! But this was more or less for myself. The next time I fall back into a spiritual pit (because there is always a next time), I want to look back at my own words and not lose sight of the big picture: that God really, really loves us.
What does the Good News mean to you?
If I have some wrong theology in here, please feel free to enlighten me. I am still learning, and love to discover new nuggets of truth!