The word gospel originally means simply good news. For many centuries it has been used to refer to the Biblical accounts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, because these accounts bring us good news.
There are four gospels in the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These bring us accounts of Jesus’ life from different people’s perspective. They each tell us about a slightly different collection of events during Jesus’ lifetime and different selections of his teaching. But one thing they have in common is their strong focus on the events surrounding Jesus’ death. In fact, although Jesus lived for about 33 years, about a quarter of the chapters in the gospels are focused on the last week of his life together with his execution, burial and resurrection.
Why would the gospel writers put such a strong emphasis on Jesus’ death? It must be because this is the heart of the good news which they want to tell their readers. So how can the unjust execution of a religious teacher be good news? And how can events which happened 2,000 years ago be relevant to us today?
If Jesus was just a good religious teacher then there would be no good news to tell. But Christians believe that Jesus was much more than that. We believe that, uniquely, Jesus was God become man and that the main purpose for him coming to earth was to die as a sacrifice for the sins of all people who would believe in him. In dying, he willingly suffered the penalty of our sin. His rising from the dead demonstrated that he was more than just a man and shows us that he has conquered over death and evil.
Those are huge claims to make. They are not to be believed without serious consideration and careful thought. But neither are they to be lightly dismissed. The gospels are worth reading in a modern English translation so that we can understand what the writers are claiming and make up our own minds about their validity. At the Baptist Church, we have plenty of gospels which we would love to give away to anyone who would like one. Just drop in on a Sunday morning or evening or contact me and ask. Then see for yourself whether this really is good news.