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1. Good Tidings of Great Joy

1. Good Tidings of Great Joy
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Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
— Jesus

Suppose some dear, lifelong friend in whose ability, resources, and faithfulness you have the utmost confidence should come to you today and say: "Friend, rejoice; I have brought you some good news, almost too good to seem true, but true nevertheless. From this day all things in your life may be changed. A will has come to light by which you have inherited a large fortune, and it is right at hand. In fact I have come to bring it to you, together with a message of love and good will from the testator. Everything that money can buy is now yours for the taking."

What do you think would be the effect of such news upon you?

At first the glad tidings might seem too good

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to believe; but if this messenger friend reiterated his statement, giving not only verbal assurances but tangible evidence of its truth, do you think you would hesitate, and question, and quibble about taking the proffered gift? I think not. Instead your very heart would leap within you with great and inexpressible joy as you began to realize all that this good news meant, if true. It would mean relief from pressing care, cessation of the gnawing anxiety about making ends meet, ability to gratify your lifelong craving for the beautiful in art and literature, time to read, think, travel, live; and above all else, it would mean the ability to help hundreds of others who are struggling with the problems of sickness, poverty, and discouragement.

Then suppose that before you had mentally quite taken in the new situation this messenger of good news should say: "Friend, in addition to this I have found a physician who has never failed to cure every kind of bodily disease from which you are suffering, and if you will come with me to him he assures me that he can cure you." How long would any sane person stand

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undecided about accepting these two gifts? How long would anyone hesitate while he argued with the messenger about his doubts and fears, his unworthiness, or his lack of ability to use these gifts properly?

Yet this is exactly what we as Christians do with God our Father. A messenger has been sent with a definite, positive message: "good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people." The good news is this: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand," here, now. We have read and heard the story since childhood with varying emotions. At first with a child's understanding and simple trust we imagined that it meant just what it said. But as we went on in the Christian life we found ourselves losing the child's idea and coming to believe that the message does not mean at all what it says. The very simplicity of it made our older, wiser minds recoil from taking it as it reads, and this in spite of the truth uttered by Jesus: "Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven."

Jesus' first sermon of which we have any record was preached in Nazareth.

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And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and he entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And he opened the book, and found the place where it was written,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor:
He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovering of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty them that are bruised,
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down: and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, To-day hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears. In other words, the Lord God hath sent Me, Jesus Christ, and I am now this day here present with you "to bind up the brokenhearted," to deliver the captives from prison, to give sight to the blind, to heal the sick, "to give unto them

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beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." This is the good news I have come to bring to you from God your Father.

As time went on Jesus sent out twelve men whom He chose to spread this good news, giving to each the same power and the same commission, i.e., the power to heal the sick, to cast out devils, and so forth, and to preach this practical gospel:

"And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons."

When John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus if He really was the Christ or if they should look for another, He said, as evidence that He really was the messenger sent from God:

"Go and tell John the things which ye hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good tidings preached to them."

After Jesus had risen and as He was about to part from His disciples He told them that their

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future mission in this world was to be exactly what His had been: "As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you."

In other words, as the Father has sent Me to preach the good news that the kingdom of heaven is right here now, that the sick can be healed now, that the blind can receive sight at once, that the brokenhearted can be made to rejoice, that all this spirit of mourning and sorrow and heaviness can be changed into joy and praise, so send I you into the world to preach the same glad tidings to them that sit in darkness and discouragement to tell all people that God is their Saviour, their genuine right-at-hand-this-moment deliverance.

As Jesus continued in the ministry of such a gospel, His heart was wrought upon as He saw how ignorant the people were of the real truth of God's desire toward them, and we read:

"After these things the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself was about to come" (or desired to come), telling them, as He had told the others,

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to heal the sick and preach that the kingdom of God was nigh unto them (or all around them right where they were).

"And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject unto us in thy name. And he said unto them . . . Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall in any wise hurt you. Nevertheless in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

In other words, rejoice not so much because you are able to make these marvelous demonstrations of power as because your spiritual eyes have been opened to the real relations between God your Father and yourself.

Jesus Christ did many marvelous works in the material world; and in thus appointing others to help Him in His work among men — in increasing numbers as the work enlarged — and giving to them the power to manifest the same mastery over untoward material conditions, He showed conclusively that at least part of the gospel deals directly with God's

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deliverance of His children from sickness, poverty, and all manner of human suffering. The early Christians for three hundred years following the resurrection of Jesus believed this and did the mighty works that He said should be done in His name. Then they lapsed into worldliness and the power was lost.

Every Christian recognizes today that the work of Jesus in the world was to establish a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and love; to teach man a higher law than the one he had known, that of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." But many entirely overlook the fact that in addition to teaching man a higher way of living Jesus also proved to us by daily ministering among the sorrowing and sick — "them that had need of healing he cured," Luke says — and by giving the same power and commission to those whom He sent out to continue the work in His name and stead, that God is in His world to do both; that is, to help His children live a better life, and also to be to them life, health, comfort, all material things needed. There is no record that Jesus ever said to the sick who came to Him that continued

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suffering would develop in them greater spiritual virtues. He did not say to the leper: "Your disease is the result of sensuality. I will not heal you, because if I do you will continue in the same way of sin." He only said in substance: "Wilt thou be made whole? Well, so do I will it. Be clean."

He did not say to anyone who came for healing or for any other deliverance, "Yes, I will heal you, but the healing will not become manifest for several months — just to test your faith." Nor did He say to anyone who came, "I heal many; but it is not God's will for you to be healed, and you must be submissive to His will." Oh, the deadening effect of this kind of submission! Who but knows it!

He did not let the people go hungry, saying it was their own carelessness not to have provided bread and they must not expect a miracle to be wrought to encourage such carelessness. He first fed them with spiritual food, to be sure; but immediately following that He ministered with equal ease and alacrity to their physical hunger, even though the lack may have been their own fault. When the widow of Nain,

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with heartbreak such as only a mother can know, followed the bier upon which lay dead her soul's pride, her beautiful and only son, Jesus did not simply comfort her with platitudes or even by bringing some superhuman joy in the place of sorrow. She wanted her boy back; and He gave her what she wanted.

Peter lacked money for the taxgatherer. Did Jesus say: "Peter, the gift of God is spiritual riches. Do not ask for worldly money, for God has nothing to do with that. If you have no money for taxes, be patient and work it out someway"; and then did He leave Peter to anxiety and care? Not at all. He instantly supplied the thing that was needed.

Jesus Christ came to show us the Father, to reveal to us the will of the Father toward us. Did He not say: "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father doing." Then how can we in our minds separate God from His world as we do? Most of us confine Him to His spiritual kingdom alone. We know that He wants to give us purity and spiritual grace. Every Christian believes this. But do we

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know or believe that He wants us to have the other desires of our heart as well? Do we believe He wants to heal our body, provide our taxes, feed our hunger ? Do we believe that Jesus Christ really is "the same yesterday and to-day, yea and for ever"? Do we believe that "he is not the God of the dead, but of the living"; that the kingdom of heaven is here at hand this moment, only that our eyes are so held by sense conditions we do not see it?

He said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Then if we are not free we do not yet know the Truth but are believing in a lie, or in the lack of Truth at least. Is not this so?

Is dumb, hopeless submission to suffering a spiritual grace? I do not believe it is. Jesus never taught that it is. He taught us nonresistance to evil itself; that is, not to fight the evil thing as an entity. But He also taught us how to obtain absolute victory over and deliverance from evil of whatever form by coming into living and vital touch with Christ. This He declared to be God's will toward us; and He demonstrated it continually by delivering all

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who were bound in any manner by sin, sickness, suffering, or sorrow.

An earnest Christian mother related to me a few years ago a story of her little boy, who had the whooping cough. The mother had taught the boy to pray; and whenever he felt one of the dreaded coughing spells approaching he instantly ran and fell on his knees, exclaiming, "Oh, Mamma, let me pray, let me pray quickly so God will keep this cough away!" The mother told of the difficulty she had had in explaining to the child that while it was good to pray, yet he must not expect God to stop the cough, because when one has the whooping cough it is natural to cough! Now, according to Jesus' teachings and His dealings with men here on earth, is not this just what the boy might and ought to have expected God to do? "Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven."

"Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee."

This is the gospel, the "good tidings of great

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joy which shall be to all the people." This is something of what He meant when He said, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Surely He meant more than we can ask or think when He said, "Come unto me."