Let’s walk back in time for a second.
It’s 26 A.D in Nazareth (Israel). You’ve spent the week as a stonemason and your arms ache from the back-breaking work you do, day in and day out. This Sabbath morning, you’re sitting in the synagogue listening to the men of your small village read from the Holy Scriptures. Suddenly, your ears perk up. This is a scripture that you’ve heard before… but it’s been years. And now with the endless exhaustion that you call your life, the brutality from the Roman empire, and your brother joining the Zealots in their fight against Rome- you just want to survive. You listen as the words ring out from the mouth of Hezekiah, an elderly man that you’ve looked up to your entire life. He is the picture of what you hope to have one day… a solid family… good business… an honor to God.
His gravelly voice scruffs through the quiet sound of breathing and hushes from mothers to their infants in the alcove.
“‘Behold’…” he clears his voice and continues, “ ‘I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts.’”
Your breath catches. For some reason… this seems to strike a chord within your heart. One of the poems from the prophet Isiah you had memorized as a child floods your mind. You feel as though the hardness of your life is cracking and light is seeping in.
How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces ]peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices,
They shout joyfully together;
For they will see with their own eyes
When the Lord restores Zion.
For some reason… you suddenly have an overwhelming sense of…. Hope. You blink to keep the tears from forming behind your dry and sleep-creased eyes and you suck a breath in. You cannot let your boss sitting a couple rows ahead of you see your emotion. Could it be? Could the return of the King be closer than ever?
You fake an eye rub but that doesn’t slow down your heart beginning to race. You immediately recall what you heard in the river valley the other day. A man, whose voice was hoarser than old Hezekiah’s blasting a message in the desert. What was he preaching? Something about the Kingdom of Heaven is coming near? Suddenly, you have a desire to walk out of the synagogue to hunt down that crazy guy who supposedly eats insects and wears camel leather to clothe himself. Could it be true? Could the Messiah be on his way? Was this the Good News your nation had been waiting for?
The nation of Israel had been waiting for hundreds, even thousands of years for the Anointed One (Messiah) who would come and deliver them. They had been exiled as a nation… thrown into slavery… watched as their temple was demolished and decimated… and yet still- they hoped and prayed for the day when the Messiah would come to save them. That to them- was the Good News.
Here’s the thing… in today’s day and age, we think we’re pretty smart. We laugh and giggle at how our worship and our churches have a leg up on what God wanted for the church. We believe that God is applauding us for our amazing way of ministry and church involvement. But… I think we’ve missed a lot of what Jesus would call the Good News/Gospel. We tend to make it all about ourselves… and it’s cost us dearly in our churches. We’ve lost the majority of the Good News about the reign of the King… and we hardly mention anything about the Kingdom. And repentance? Well… isn’t that a Catholic thing?