Jesus didn’t back down from proclaiming the Gospel

The Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed are summary statements of what Christians believe. Although the wording in these two creeds is somewhat different – the Nicene Creed is longer – they express the same essential beliefs of the faith.

Apr 11, 2014

By Daniel S. Mulhall
The Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed are summary statements of what Christians believe. Although the wording in these two creeds is somewhat different – the Nicene Creed is longer – they express the same essential beliefs of the faith.

Both proclaim that Jesus became incarnate – became flesh and blood – and was crucified, resurrected and returned to the father.

What is a surprise is that neither creed says anything about Jesus’ mission here on earth. While the creedal statements are at the core of our faith, what Jesus did and preached comes mostly from what the four Gospel accounts tell us.

Unfortunately, we do not have a complete record of Jesus’ earthly ministry. If anything was written during his lifetime it did not survive in its original form.

Scripture scholars suggest that such a document, called the “Q source” – from the German word for “source,” “quelle” – was used by the writers of the synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – and explains why they share so much in common.

Though they share common stories, the synoptic Gospels use these common stories in different ways. In addition, each of the Gospel writers also had unique sources about Jesus' life. This is especially true for the Gospel according to John.

Even given the differences in the Gospels, there are certain things about Jesus’ mission that come through clearly.

For one, all of the Gospel accounts note that Jesus was driven. After John baptized him, Jesus went into the desert. He chose the men he wanted for disciples and called them with such passion that they stopped what they were doing and followed him immediately. He spoke with such force and persuasion that people followed him with abandon, and those who didn’t, decided to kill him because he was too threatening.

Following his baptism and desert experience, Luke 4:16 tells us that Jesus began his mission in Galilee, in the town of Nazareth where he was raised. There, he read aloud in the synagogue the passage from Isaiah 61:1-2 announcing that his mission would be to bring glad tidings to the poor, to set captives free, to give sight to the blind and to free the oppressed.

Putting down the scroll, he announced that he was the fulfillment of that passage. The people were amazed at his words, since they had known him from infancy, but then after he spoke some words they didn’t agree with, they decided to throw him off the cliff. Jesus did not back down even from the toughest audiences.

A key focus of Jesus’ mission was to proclaim the kingdom of heaven. He told stories and used analogies to help people gain an idea of what the kingdom would be.

In the parable of the good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37), Jesus teaches that in the kingdom even our enemies are to be treated with love and respect.

In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus teaches that God gives us all that we need, even if we waste it, and that God will be waiting for us when we return. In the parable of the sower, Jesus reveals to us God’s great generosity.

And in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:3-12) and the Sermon on the Plain (Lk 6:20-36), Jesus offers us the new commandments of the kingdom. The Gospel of John recognizes Jesus’ miracles as signs that the kingdom is at hand.

Jesus did not back down from proclaiming the kingdom of God even when he was told to stop. Even then, he kept proclaiming the good news of salvation, regardless of the consequences. Jesus was faithful to his mission even though it led to his death.

As Pope Francis repeatedly reminds us today, each and every one of us is called to join in Jesus’ mission to proclaim the good news of the kingdom, and we are to proclaim that message with enthusiasm and joy. We are to be beacons of hope, radiant in the joy of the Gospel, not “sourpusses” who are put off by the Gospel’s challenges.

Matthew 25 presents Jesus’ teaching on what being a disciple entails: The scene is the final judgment, and those who are saved have cared for those in need by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving drink to those who thirst, welcoming the stranger and caring for those who are ill or in prison.

We are to show mercy and compassion to others as God shows mercy and compassion for us. We are to forgive others repeatedly and willingly -- “not seven times but seventy-seven times,” as Jesus tells Peter in Matthew 18:22.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to be witnesses to his life and to his mission. While we may not be called to die for our faith as some witnesses do -- the word “martyr” means “witness” -- we are all called to be living examples of what it means to live the Gospel to its fullness and to proclaim the kingdom of God as Jesus did.

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