Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15, ESV)
Jesus preached the gospel. Gospel is one of those words we borrowed from Greek when translating the scriptures. It means good news. You can easily recognize Christians that share the gospel by one simple test: is what they are sharing good news? At the first opportunity, Jesus preached the Gospel. He did not preach a four part message series on having a happy marriage or managing a successful business. The Bible has a lot to say about marriage, business, raising children and so forth. But those things are not of the most importance. Where Jesus spent the balance of his time and energy was on spreading the gospel.
Jesus demonstrated the gospel in word and deed. The prodigal son story found in Luke 15 is one of many such stories Jesus told. He spent little time with the educated religious leaders in Jerusalem and much time with the likes of shepherds, farmers and fishermen. The parables were life lessons build around stories that common people and laborers could understand. One parable is about a woman searching for a lost coin. But Jesus did more than tell stories; he interacted with people in meaningful ways. He talked to people like the Samaritan woman at the well that the religious leaders of his day would have scorned. He went into neighborhoods they would not have visited, ate at the table with sinners and tax collectors, and let women such as Mary Magdalene wash his feet with her tears. His lessons and sermons taught the gospel, and his ministry on a daily basis reflected his commitment to it. It was more than something he talked about, he empowered his disciples to heal the sick and cast out demons. Jesus wasn’t just pushing a book or DVD series, he was up close and personal with people’s problems.
Jesus never quit sharing the gospel. Even as he hung on the cross, he prayed for the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers that were crucifying him. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) As the Pharisees and bystanders mocked him, even some of the other offenders being crucified joined them. But one such criminal recognized that Jesus was different.
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)
Jesus began his ministry preaching the gospel, and continued in it for the next three and a half years. More than something he spoke of in theory, he shared good news until his final breath. He taught and empowered his followers to continue the things he had been doing, and Paul commands that we have the same mind of a servant within us. It is when we leave the sanctuary that the real work of ministry begins.