Jesus was telling the crowd about the good news that God’s kingdom was at hand as we saw in the previous post. In the post title above I used the word “preached” but its meaning is influenced in our mind by our present day experience of church.
Who were listening to him? Certainly some fishermen were:
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Mark 1:16-18
The text reads fish for people, other translations have fishers of men. How would Simon (later called Peter) have interpreted this? Calling people to repentance of their sins? I don’t think so. He saw a charismatic man, Yeshua, or Joshua in English, telling them that God’s kingdom was at hand.
Now the historic Joshua was well known as the leader who had led the Israelites into the promised land! That kind of action by this Joshua would appeal to a man like Simon.
So my guess is that Peter understood Jesus to refer to recruiting men (soldiers?) for the kingdom. Calling people to repentance was not in his thoughts.
After being taught by Jesus, he deputizes the twelve to go on their first mission:
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ’The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Mat 10:5-7
Note the absence of any mention of salvation still. The focus is still the Kingdom. Much, much later, after being with Jesus every day, learning from him, did Peter think any differently?
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Mat 16:21-22
Until then, Jesus had focused entirely on the good news about the coming kingdom. Now he introduces a new concept: that he would be killed. This was so new that Peter’s reaction was “Never, Lord!” The king dying was not how he saw things. He would still have to learn about this additional dimension of the assignment given to Jesus.
After the crucifixion was over, what was on Jesus’ mind? What about the disciples?
After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?“ Acts 1:3-6
They were all still focused on the message from God that his Kingdom was near. Let’s look at another example.
But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Acts 8:12
The good news i.e. the gospel was still the kingdom of God! Says who they may ask but Philip did not neglect to tell them who had brought this news, Jesus the one anointed to be the king (that was his reputation or name).
Finally let’s look at Paul’s example near the end of his life:
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Acts 28:23
His focus was still the kingdom of God! He supported his message by explaining, from the scriptures, that the kingdom was foretold in the prophets and that Jesus was the anointed king!
This changed a few centuries later when emperor Constantine made the new version of “Christianity” the official religion of the empire. Then a different gospel began to be preached.
That has been my journey so far. Next we’ll look at how a false gospel replaced the true gospel.