An ancient Greek myth describes runner, Pheidippides, making the twenty-five-mile jaunt from Marathon to Athens with the message of Athenian victory over the Persian forces of Darius I. As the runner Lay breathless at the gates of the city, and breathed his last, he gasped these words - "nenikēkamen!"
“The battle is over and we won.”
This was the birth of the marathon run - not only an Olympic event but races in every major city around the world.
The first marathoner was also one of the first evangelists. He brought the gospel to Athens - the good news of the Greek victory.
Four hundred years later Jesus, walked into Nazareth, Capernaum, and other cities of Galilee with the same message. The battle has been won, the enemy is defeated, the kingdom of God is near. People from all over flocked to hear him teach and proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
Less than four later, Jesus was crucified, was resurrected, and ascended into heaven. He had told His followers to stay in Jerusalem until they received the Promise of the Father - The Holy Spirit. Obediently, they huddled together and prayed in an upper room in Jerusalem during the Jewish feast of Pentecost. Suddenly they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Jewish pilgrims from all over the Roman Empire were in Jerusalem and they were confused when they saw Jesus' followers acting strangely. So Peter got up and explained what had just happened.
“These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” [Acts 2:15-21 (NIV)]
38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [Acts 2:38 (NKJV)]
As a result of Peter’s proclamation, three thousand people repented and were baptized.
Today we timidly try to share the Gospel with our neighbor and it becomes such a difficult task that we keep putting it off and putting it off. Then our neighbor dies and we condemn ourselves because we were never able to talk to him about Jesus.
Or we build up our courage and arm ourselves with Biblical apologetics so we can answer our neighbor’s questions about creation and why there evil in the world. Then we get in his face and tell him he will rot in hell if he doesn’t accept Jesus.
Pardon me, but that isn’t good news.
My wife and I were on Interstate 5 on our way from our home near Seattle to San Diego for a conference. As we approached Bakersfield, a troubling thought came to my mind. “What really is the Gospel? What is the Good News?”
The word Gospel means “Good News” but most of the time we don’t treat it as good news we treat it more as a spiritual discipline. We typically prepare our little spiel, memorize the four spiritual laws, the Roman Road, and several pertinent scriptures and set out to meet someone at Wally World or Micky D’s.
When the Greek evangelist left Marathon for Athens, he was bubbling over with excitement and enthusiasm because of the message of victory he was carrying. As he fell at the feet of the crowd in
Athens, he wasn’t concerned whether they would receive his message. With his last breath, he joyfully gasped out the news that Athens was safe, the enemy had been defeated.
When Jesus walked victoriously into the streets of Capernaum, He carried the Good News that the Kingdom of God was near. He was not concerned whether anyone would reject Him. Many did, but it did not reduce His enthusiasm for His Good News. When speaking to Jews from all over the world, Peter was not afraid of what the Pharisees and Romans might think of his Good News. And that former Christian basher, Paul, went throughout Asia and Europe proclaiming the Gospel to the Gentiles while being run out of town, beaten and stoned, and given up for dead. It did not keep him from sharing the Good News.
Why do we hesitate?
I believe that there are two reasons which are probably a condemnation of the church today.
- Many do not truly understand or believe the Good News.
- Most people believe that when they die, they will go to heaven because they tried hard to live a good life.
The Good News is summed up by Peter's message at Pentecost.
- The battle has been won.
- The enemy has been defeated.
- The church has the life and power of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
- Christ will return for His church.