We know that the gospel is good news. Literally translated, the Greek word euangelion means “good tidings,” and it is just that: the news that the sacrifice has been made and we are redeemed. The question arises, though, whether the gospel is good news for what is to come or also serves as good news now in our everyday lives.
While it is clear from the life of Christ that the answer to this question is both, we see it beautifully encapsulated when we examine what we now know as Holy Week. Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the solemnity of the Last Supper, the pain of crucifixion, Christ’s magnificent resurrection – as believers, we meditate on these significant moments recorded in the gospels. The week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday is one of the most cherished times in our church calendar, yet it is so easy to blaze past the incredible picture of kingdom work that Jesus gave us in the days leading up to his death and resurrection.
The gospel writers did not rush straight to Christ’s crucifixion in their accounts, but instead they carefully told us about each day of that week leading up to Jesus’ death. Between his celebrated arrival in Jerusalem and his arrest and crucifixion, we see Jesus weeping over the city, confronting the corrupt system in the temple, healing the blind and lame, teaching and washing his disciples’ feet. He addressed injustice, restored health, and gave of himself. He did exactly what he said he came to do in Jn. 10:10: give life. Zoé, the Greek word for life in that text, refers both to spiritual life in the future, as well as physical life in the present. During Holy Week, we see that Jesus did both. He made a way for us to have eternal life with God, and he brought vibrant and beautiful life to people in their day-to-day lives.
What does this say to us now? How do Jesus’ actions during that week and even throughout his earthly life inform our Christianity today? Christ showed us that while the kingdom is our heavenly destination through his death on the cross, we are called to do as he did and build his kingdom on Earth. While this may seem like lofty talk, it is in fact a command for us to act in tangible ways as Jesus did: to confront injustice, to care about the wellness of our communities and to speak words of truth and life.
Following after him does not mean we keep our heads down and push through to heaven. Instead, we share the new life that we have been given today. If we truly intend to follow in Christ’s ways, then we too must be as concerned with the here and now as we are with eternity. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, brokenhearted for the people; we are called to weep and mourn the brokenness of our cities. He cleared the temple, overturning the tables of the moneychangers and confronting the economically unjust systems in place; we must also confront injustice, economic and otherwise, in our communities. He healed people; we need to be concerned with the access to wellness in our neighborhoods. Jesus taught and also spoke truth to the powers of the day, and we must do the same. He knelt and washed his disciples’ feet, pairing his words with his actions, just as we should do today.
Christians, we cannot squander our time on Earth just counting down until we reach our heavenly home. The gospel is for the here and now. It changes lives, and it changes communities. It calls us to speak up, act, care, and serve so that we are doing as we are praying, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.”