1 Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities.
2 And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples
3 and said to Him, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?"
4 Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:
5 "The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
6 "And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me."
What is the gospel? The word we use today comes from our own English language, derived from two old English words: "god" which means good, and "spell" which means message or report. This is a quite literal translation of the Greek "euaggelion", which is where we get our modern word "evangelize." There is no doubt that the gospel is good news, since it does speak of our healing and salvation and of peace with God. Yes, that is a good thing to hear. But we don't just spontaneously believe in the good news of our redemption. It is not something that simply pops into our heads one day as we're walking down the street. No, we believe because we HEAR the gospel.
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!"
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?"
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
After all, the gospel is first and foremost a MESSAGE, a report, a sharing of the news of our salvation through Jesus Christ. It is not a philosophy, not a feeling, not a dream that we have. The gospel is something that was told to us by someone else, just as it was told to them and to countless others over the past two millennia.
Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
Who has believed? Those who have heard. And as Paul said, how can they hear except that someone has preached to them?
1 Corinthians 1:17-18 (English Standard Version)
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
The "word of the cross" may sound foolish at first. After all, who would brag about the Son of God who allowed Himself to be killed by unbelievers? Who would believe that He was raised from the dead? Who would think that our own salvation didn't come from any works of our own but through faith in the Lamb of God who was slain for our sins? The gospel isn't about the wisdom of men and esoteric formulae for finding God. The gospel is simply a message we deliver telling about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:1-7)
The gospel is something we SPEAK.
It is tempting to say, "Well, if I just live a good life among the pagans, then they'll spontaneously believe in Jesus Christ. I don't have to do anything more than that. My life is a living testimony of the gospel." Not so, my friends. Peter phrases it a bit differently:
1 Peter 2:11-12
11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,
12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
You see, our behavior does glorify God, but it does not share the gospel with people. Our constant battle with the flesh is commendable, and it shows unbelievers that the renewal of the Spirit is real and tangible, but it does not tell them WHY we have received the Holy Spirit. And it is the "why" that matters. "Why" is the gospel of peace with God. "Why" is the gospel of the kingdom of God. "Why" is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
So in today's verses, when John the Baptist's followers come and ask Jesus if He is "the Coming One"--i.e. the Messiah, the Christ--Jesus simple tells them, "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see..." In other words, be a witness. "Go and TELL." Tell John what? Tell John that the things which were foretold by the prophets have come to pass. Tell John that miracles are being worked in the Jesus' name.
"And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me."
What does Jesus mean by that? We could see how John's followers might be conflicted in their loyalties. After all, they had followed John for perhaps several years, and they had heard his message about the coming of the Messiah. They had been baptized by John. But this Jesus was pursuing a different route. Which path should they choose? Should they abandon their teacher John as he lay in prison to follow this carpenter's son from Nazareth? Or should they stick with John to his bitter end? Jesus essentially replied, "Don't think you have to choose, and be sure to share the good news I bring about peace with God. But don't be offended that I alone am the path to salvation." John the Baptist did his part in preparing the way of the Lord, but he truly was just preparing the way. Jesus Himself IS the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)
27 And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!"
28 But He said, "More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"
The word that Jesus uses here for "keep" is the Greek "phulassontes", which means to preserve, to guard, to save, and also to observe or obey. We are to preserve and observe the Word of God. We are to guard the gospel and then make sure that others HEAR it so that they, too, can observe and preserve it. The gospel has been handed down in an unbroken chain for nearly two thousand years. Who are we to break the chain?
"Go and tell," Jesus said to John the Baptist's followers. Go and tell what you see. Go and tell what you hear. Go and tell about the majesty and power of our merciful God. Go and tell and do not be offended by the Word of God, but embrace it and keep it. Preserve the Word and be preserved by it. (Psalms 19:7-11) "Go and tell" is the essence of what it means to follow the apostolic tradition. You see, the word "apostle" comes from a word meaning "one who is sent." In His last command to His own apostles, Jesus said, "Go therefore and make disciples..." (Matthew 28:19)and "Go into all the world and preach..." (Mark 16:15) Therefore, let us now go and tell.
Holy Lord God, I pray that Your Word is as a fire in the bones of all believers, that they cannot keep it in lest they be consumed by it. Let Your gospel ring forth from the mouths of all believers, O Lord. Let us go and tell what we have seen and heard. Let us be witnesses for Your salvation and glory. Amen.