good news

Paul and his companions then left Paphos by ship for Pamphylia, landing at the port town of Perga. There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem. But Paul and Barnabas traveled inland to Antioch of Pisidia.

On the Sabbath they went to the synagogue for the services. After the usual readings from the books of Moses and the prophets, those in charge of the service sent them this message: “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, come and give it.” So Paul stood, lifted his hand to quiet them, and started speaking. “Men of Israel,” he said, “and you God-fearing Gentiles, listen to me.

“The God of this nation of Israel chose our ancestors and made them multiply and grow strong during their stay in Egypt. Then with a powerful arm he led them out of their slavery. He put up with them through forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Then he destroyed seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to Israel as an inheritance. All this took about 450 years.

“After that, God gave them judges to rule until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people begged for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’

“And it is one of King David’s descendants, Jesus, who is God’s promised Savior of Israel! Before he came, John the Baptist preached that all the people of Israel needed to repent of their sins and turn to God and be baptized. As John was finishing his ministry he asked, ‘Do you think I am the Messiah? No, I am not! But he is coming soon—and I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the sandals on his feet.’ — Acts 13:13-25

Good news! That test you have next week is really hard. And the teacher is going to add some more stuff to the revision syllabus.

…that’s not good news.

Good news! Because you embarrassed your friend in front of everyone, she’s really mad at you. And she’ll only talk to you again if you do this list of stuff to make her not mad at you.

…that’s not good news.

Good news! Here’s a list of dry, boring names and events. Be excited about it!

…that’s not good news. If we read it just as a list of names and events, without thinking about what it actually means, it’s not good news. But if we think about what Paul is actually saying, it changes a bit.

Here Paul is talking to Israelites (and some non-Israelites too). He reminds them about who God is and what he’s done: God chose the Israelites long ago – he made a promise to Abraham that he would stick by his children forever. Paul continues: God saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, he conquered the Canaanites and gave their land to the Israelites; he gave them judges, he gave them kings, and he gave them Jesus. And now he’s sending Paul to talk to them about Jesus.

That’s good news. Israel is dealing with a God who is kind to his people and keeps his promises.

But if we leave it at that, we’re not thinking deep enough. Let’s read between the lines of what Paul is saying:

God made a promise to Abraham to stick by his children forever. Abraham’s children forget God while they are in Egypt, but he sticks by them, he saves them.

God leads Abraham’s children through the desert to Canaan, but they forget him there too, they wish they could go back to Egypt. But God sticks by them, he saves them.

God takes Abraham’s children to Canaan, and he promises them that he’ll give them the land. But Abraham’s children are terrified of the Canaanites, they don’t think God can do it. But God sticks by them, he saves them, he gives them the land.

Abraham’s children settle down in Canaan. But they forget God, and their enemies come back to get them. But God sticks by them, he saves them, he gives them judges.

Abraham’s children don’t like having judges. They want a human king, they don’t want God as King. But God sticks by them, he gives them a King. He even promises King David that the Saving King will come from his line.

And then? Paul doesn’t go into it but his audience knew exactly what happened. Abraham’s children forget God. They have human kings, they’re just like other people now. They don’t need God. So God steps away. Abraham’s children get torn to pieces by their enemies and swallowed up.

But God sticks by them. He saves them. He gives them that Saving King that he had promised.

And that Saving King? Again, Paul doesn’t go into it, but his audience knows. That Saving King, the one called Jesus? The one that you – you, Abraham’s children – betrayed and distrusted; you had him arrested, stripped naked, beaten to a pulp, then nailed to a cross like a piece of meat – that Saving King, he’s alive. And now Paul is here to speak for him.

Is it time for bad news now? What does this Saving King want? Does he want war? Does he want an apology? Does he want the people who killed him to be punished? Does he want payment for damages? That would be bad news.

But no, Abraham’s children, this is good news. The Saving King that you killed, the one who is the end product of thousands of years of God sticking by you and saving you – he wants peace. He wants you to come home.

This is good news. Good news for you, Abraham’s children. God sticks by you. He is saving you. And good news for you too, you who aren’t Abraham’s children. King Jesus’ offer is for you too.

This is the good news that you are taught. Trying hard to be a good person, that’s not good news. Praying that God will help you pass your exams, that’s not good news. Trying to be strong enough to deal with people’s mockery, and your failures, and the ups and downs of life, that’s not good news.

But the good news is that God makes promises and he sticks by them. You are a child of Abraham because you are a Christian. You’ve seen what Abraham’s God, your God, is like. You’ve seen what he does, how he thinks, how he keeps his promises even when you fail. You have hope because of King Jesus. That’s good news.

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