The Gospel Jesus Taught, Part 1

The Gospel Jesus Taught, Part 1 January 16, 2024



Our lectionary reading from the gospels for this coming weekend is from the gospel of Mark:

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

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As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. (Mark 1:14-20)

Every year around this time, I find myself writing on the themes in this passage. Take a look at two of my previous entries on Matthew’s and Luke’s versions of this passage, in 2022 and in 2023. 

Before we dive into the fishing metaphor, though, let’s explore how our reading begins. 

First, Herod has imprisoned John. Rome and Rome’s extensions are generally tolerant of things we consider today to be religious in nature. What Rome didn’t tolerate was anyone who became a social, political, or economic threat to Rome’s status quo and power structure. John didn’t get arrested because he was handing out tickets to heaven. He was arrested because he came to be seen as a threat the system. (In this December 2023 article, I mention Josephus’ description of how Herod viewed John the Baptist.)

After John is arrested, Jesus sets out preaching his gospel. Try and get inside the headspace of the gospel authors here. They aren’t describing a gospel about Jesus, like we would preach today. Instead they’re talking about the gospel Jesus himself taught. What was that gospel like?

The word “gospel” is not a Jewish term but a Roman one. When Rome would conquer a new territory, it would send out a messenger called an evangelist to go throughout the area announcing the gospel or “good news” that these people had just been conquered by their “savior” Caesar, “savior of the world,” and would now be subject of the Empire of Rome and the Pax Romana. Here are a few examples of how Rome used this term “gospel.”

“Even after the battle at Mantinea, which Thucydides has described, the one who first announced the victory had no other reward for his gospel [euangelion 

– singular] than a piece of meat sent by the magistrates from the public mess.” (Plutarch, Agesilaus, p. 33) 

“Accordingly, when [Aristodemus] had come near, he stretched out his hand and cried with a loud voice: ‘Hail, King Antigonus, we have conquered Ptolemy in a sea-fight, and now hold Cyprus, with 12,800 soldiers as prisoners of war.’ To this, Antigonus replied: ‘Hail to thee also, by Heaven! But for torturing us in this way, thou shalt undergo punishment; the reward for thy gospels [euangelion] thou shalt be some time in getting.’” (Plutarch, Demetrius, p. 17) 

“Why, as we are told, the Spartans merely sent meat from the public commons to the man who brought the gospel [euangelion] of the victory in Mantineia which Thucydides describes! And indeed the compilers of histories are, as it were, reporters of great exploits who are gifted with the faculty of felicitous speech, and achieve success in their writing through the beauty and force of their narration; and to them those who first encountered and recorded the events [euangelion] are indebted for a pleasing retelling of them” (Plutarch, Moralia [Glory of Athens], p. 347)

Unlike the gospel these messengers announced, Jesus’ gospel wasn’t about Rome. We’ll begin taking at look at his gospel, in Part 2.

(Read Part 2)


Finding Jesus Second Edition!

I have some exciting news! I have just signed an agreement with a new book publisher (Quoir), and we are putting together a launch team for the second edition of Finding Jesus, coming out next month!

If you have been blessed by the first edition, and you would like to see this book have greater exposure to reach an even larger audience, I want to invite you to be a part of the launch team. This second edition will be available in paperback, Kindle and an audio book available on Audible. And great news for those who already have a copy of the first edition, the first 25 people to sign up to be part of our launch team will also receive a FREE Audible copy of the audiobook for Finding Jesus.

To join the Finding Jesus launch team, all you need to do is four things:

1) Go to Amazon and pre-order a copy of the second edition when pre-orders become available.

2) Read the pdf copy of the second edition of Finding Jesus that I will send you after your pre-order the book so that you’re ready on launch day.

3) On launch day go back to Amazon and write a review for Finding Jesus. (You’ll be able to do this on day one since you’ve already read the pdf copy.)

4) Share your review of Finding Jesus on your social media pages that day, also.

It’s pretty simple. That’s all. And if you already have copy of the first edition this is a great opportunity to get the audiobook version on Audible as soon as it is available.

If you would like to join our launch team, you can email me at and just put in the subject of your email “Launch Team.”

Thank you in advance for being part of this special second edition publishing and ensuring this edition is a success.

About Herb Montgomery
Herb Montgomery, director of Renewed Heart Ministries, is an author and adult religious re-educator helping Christians explore the intersection of their faith with love, compassion, action, and societal justice. You can read more about the author here.

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